INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 2, 2016) – One of the toughest aspects when a team and veteran player haggle over a new contract is finding common ground on what that player would command on the open market.
In short, what’s he really worth?
That undoubtedly is a major sticking point in negotiations as the Indianapolis Colts attempt to keep linebacker Jerrell Freeman and one of its tight ends – Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen – off the NFL’s free-agent market, which opens March 9.
Not that owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson have asked our opinion, but any debate regarding the value of placekicker Adam Vinatieri should be brief and easily resolved. In fact, a pair of recent transactions essentially set the financial parameters for his worth.
Using the Green Bay Packers’ Mason Crosby and the New York Giants’ Justin Tucker as benchmarks, Vinatieri is due a multi-year deal averaging about $4 million per season.
Earlier this week, the Packers and Crosby agreed on a four-year, $16.1 million contract and the Giants used the franchise tag to retain Tucker. The latter is a one-year, $4.572 million deal. Crosby and Tucker join Stephen Gostkowski, Vinatieri’s successor in New England, as the only kickers in the league making at least $4 million per year.
The Colts need to expand that exclusive club by one.
Grigson revealed last week the team has had at least exploratory discussions with its pending free agents it hopes to retain, and a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed the Colts have approached Vinatieri.
That would be in line with Irsay’s comments last month.
“We’d like to retain Adam,” he said. “He is still kicking at a high level. He really takes care of himself. (He) and Pat McAfee really complement each other. Obviously that’s been one of the strengths of our football team.
“We do not underestimate what those two guys have meant to us. Again, we’d like to retain Adam. We’re hopeful we’ll be able to.”
In an NFL that routinely discards older players, Vinatieri is an outlier. At 43, he’s the league’s oldest active player and eager to retain that distinction.
Vinatieri understands the history of the NFL and his niche in it. He has piled up 2,253 points in his 20 seasons with the Colts and Patriots, third-most in league history. He’s within reach of Morten Andersen’s all-time mark of 2,544. Two-and-a-half solid seasons might get him there.
Vinatieri (306) also is one of 10 players to appear in at least 300 games. It’s doubtful he’ll stick around long to surpass Andersen’s record 382 – he’d have to play deep into the 2020 season, at age 48 – but he has a good shot at cracking the top 4.
“In a perfect world I’d love to play another couple of years and finish my career here and ride off into the sunset,” Vinatieri said. “That would be a dream come true.
“I’ve been here 10 years now. Kids don’t know anything other than Colts football. They don’t remember any of the (Patriots) stuff. They’ve seen pictures of me on the other team, but they don’t remember it.
“Whenever your contract’s up, it’s a negotiation thing. We’ll see if they want me back or if someone else wants me. We’ll keep going.”
All Vinatieri’s agent, Gary Uberstine, really needs to do is tell the Colts: Look at the tape and analyze the raw numbers.
Over the past two seasons, Vinatieri has converted a league-best 55-of-58 field-goal attempts (.948). Goskowski is second at 68-of-73 (.932). Vinatieri had a personal-best streak of 35 consecutive successful field goals end in the final game of the 2014 season and finished last season by converting 25 straight.
And so much for a kicker losing leg strength as he gets older. Vinatieri has hit 7-of-8 attempts at least 50 yards the last two seasons, and 17-of-24 since 2011.
By being able to stiff-arm Father Time, Vinatieri is in position to realize a true rarity. If he’s able to secure a new contract with the Colts, it would be his fourth with them since leaving the Patriots as a free agent after the 2005 season.
It also would be the most lucrative. He signed a five-year, $12 million deal in ’06, a three-year, $9.2 million deal in ’11 and a two-year, $5 million contract in ’14.
Pay the man, and move on to more complicated negotiations.