Sports Outside the Beltway

Vinatieri Signed by Colts

Len Pasquarelli reports that Pats kicking legend Adam Vinatieri has agreed to a deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

In a move fraught with irony on any number of fronts, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history is about to be replaced by one of the most clutch placement specialists in the game. Unrestricted free agent Adam Vinatieri, who provided the winning field goals in two of the New England Patriots’ three Super Bowl victories, has reached a contract agreement in principle with the Indianapolis Colts, has learned.

Complete terms of the contract were not immediately available, but league sources told that the multiyear deal includes a signing bonus of $3.5 million and that it averages $2.5 million over the first three years of the contract. There remains some detail work still to be done on the contract, but sources said that it could be completed by late Tuesday night. Vinatieri is scheduled to fly to Indianapolis for a Wednesday news conference.

Vinatieri played the 2005 season for the Patriots under the one-year qualifying offer for a kicker, in his case $2.6 million-plus. The Pats opted not designate Vinatieri as a franchise player for a second consecutive season, because it would have cost them more than $3 million. That decision could end up costing New England far more, since Vinatieri will be difficult to replace, both on and off the field.

Vinatieri, whose performance under fire had come to be symbolic of the Patriots’ excellence under coach Bill Belichick, and whose departure will be a significant blow to New England, will replace longtime Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt. Though most recently remembered for his last-second miss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a divisional-round playoff defeat two months ago, a 46-yard attempt that would have sent that game into overtime, Vanderjagt is the most accurate field goal kicker in league history. But Vinatieri has become famous, and nearly iconic in New England, for converting such clutch kicks over the course of his 10-year career. And at age 33, he might become even better, given that he will be kicking much of the time in a domed stadium now, after a career often spent in blustery conditions.

Notable, of course, in Vinatieri’s move to Indianapolis is that the Colts and Patriots have been rivals for the last several seasons.

I find it quite bizarre that the Pats let him go, although understand not wanting to pay that kind of money for a kicker. A further irony is that this will likely start a bidding war for Vanderjagt, the only truly premier kicker left on the market. Several teams, including my Cowboys, desperately need an upgrade at the position. I was hoping they would sign Viniatieri, even if it cost $3 million a year. After the T.O. signing, though, they likely could not justify that under the cap.

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