Fresh of the signing of Terrell Owens, the Cowboys are reportedly close to signing another very controversial free agent, former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt.
After 17 seasons of counting on inexperienced and inexpensive place-kickers, the Cowboys made it clear this off-season they intended on changing their ways. And if they are indeed willing to pay for an experienced kicker, might as well go after the most accurate kicker in NFL history. That’s what the Cowboys were doing on Wednesday, courting Indianapolis unrestricted free-agent kicker Mike Vanderjagt at Valley Ranch.
While no deal had been officially struck by early Wednesday evening, the two sides appeared to be closing in on an agreement that could be signed as early as Thursday.
Any chances of Vanderjagt returning to Indianapolis ended Tuesday when the Colts signed New England unrestricted free-agent kicker Adam Vinatieri to a deal that reportedly includes a $3.5 million signing bonus and averages $2.5 million over the first three years of the contract.
And with Vinatieri off the market, Vanderjagt and former Minnesota kicker Paul Edinger are the top veteran kickers still available, assuming the Cowboys aren’t interested in re-signing Billy Cundiff, recently signed by Tampa Bay and then released this week. The Bucs re-signed their kicker from last year, Matt Bryant, who the Cowboys were highly interested in signing at the start of free agency.
I would have preferred Vinatieri, of course, but Vanderjagt would be a huge upgrade at the position for the Cowboys. The fact that neither of them are good at kicking off is rather odd, however. One would think a punter could handle kickoff duties, though, even if he had to learn in training camp.
And, frankly, the options are pretty thin:
Heading into the off-season, the Cowboys had interest in both Bryant and Green Bay’s Ryan Longwell, who signed a five-year, $10 million deal with Minnesota, which handed him a $3 million signing bonus. The Cowboys also were contemplating signing Seattle restricted free agent Josh Brown to an offer sheet, but since the Seahawks decided not to match the transition offer sheet guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota, they have enough cap space to match any legitimate offer the Cowboys might make for the three-year veteran kicker.
The Cowboys also have been keeping a close eye on the Olindo Mare situation down in Miami. Reports suggest the Dolphins might release their veteran kicker, who is scheduled to earn a $1.4 million base salary. Mare not only has one of the league’s strongest legs, but would immediately give the Cowboys a boost on his kickoffs, recording 16 touchbacks last season alone. But with the veteran kickers disappearing from the free agent market, the Dolphins must be asking themselves just who would kick for them if they let Mare go.
Update: It’s official. Both ESPN’s Len Pasquereli and DC.com’s Nick Eatman confirm that a deal has been reached. According to the former, “Financial details were not yet available, but it is believed the contract averages about $2 million annually.”
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