Have the Colts Seen the Last of Smith?

It might be difficult for longtime fans of the Indianapolis Colts to fathom, but the franchise will most likely have a different person handling the punting duties in 2009.

Hunter Smith has been the Colts punter and holder since he joined the team as a seventh-round draft choice out of Notre Dame in 1999. But after 10 years with the franchise, Smith's contract has not been renewed and he is not expected to be back in Indianapolis for the 2009 season.

The Colts will also need to find a holder to replace the reliable Smith
AP Photo

While that scenario could still change, the chances appear to be pretty good that punter will be one major area of change for the Colts. It could very well be a position that Indianapolis addresses in the latter stages of this year's draft.

First-year veteran Mike Dragosavich is the only punter on the team's offseason roster. He originally signed with New England following the 2008 draft and the Colts claimed him off waivers in February.

"Obviously, in terms of free agency, it's kind of up in the air, but the thing you can count on is we'll have an effective punter in that position," Indianapolis first-year head coach Jim Caldwell said recently. "It's an important position for us, and obviously it has a great bearing on winning the field position battle for us."

While Smith had been an effective punter over the years, Indianapolis officials have apparently opted to look elsewhere in an attempt to fortify the special teams unit heading into this fall. The Colts' 44.2-yard average on punts ranked them 12th in the NFL last season.

But just as important as his punting has been for Indianapolis, it was in Smith's role as the team's holder for kickers Mike Vanderjagt and Adam Vinatieri that caught the eye of many league insiders. And that may be in that spot where his absence will be felt the most.

"Depending on what happens (with Smith), there's a pretty good chance that we'll be looking for a punter who can also hold," first-year Colts special teams coach Ray Rycheleski said in February.

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