The Math on Signing Adam Vinatieri

How much will it cost the Cowboys to sign one of the NFL's all-time best kickers?

So far, so good.

The New England Patriots elected not to place the franchise tag on veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri by Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline. That leaves Vinatieri headed towards free agency, unless a last-minute deal can be struck between the 10-year veteran and the Patriots before March 3.

Considering that talks between the two sides have been non-existent up to this point, all signs point to Vinatieri becoming free to sign with any team after the March 3 deadline.

So what will it take for Dallas to get the deal done? To answer that question, one must look to what the top kickers in the league are currently being paid.

Arizona's Neil Rackers is the highest paid placekicker currently employed in the National Football League. He is scheduled to make $1.8 million in 2006 after signing a four-year, $6.4-million extension last November that included a $3-million signing bonus.

By all accounts, Vinatieri is expected to be in that same ballpark.

Vinatieri was tagged with the franchise label last season and earned $2.51 million in 2005. As the highest paid player at his position, the 33-year-old kicker would have earned roughly $3.01 million (which is 120 percent of his previous salary) this season if New England tagged him again.

And while that may seem to be a high price to some, the argument could be made that having a quality kicker of Vinatieri's caliber last season would have allowed the Cowboys two more wins and a playoff berth. Instead, a total of four Dallas kickers struggled throughout the 2005 season- which was one of the big reasons the team failed to advance failed to reach the postseason for the second consecutive.

Meanwhile Vinatieri, 33, connected on 20-of-25 of his field goal attempts in 2005.

But aside from his consistency, his ability to convert under pressure situations is what makes him such a valuable commodity. Vinatieri has kicked two game-winning field goals in the Super Bowl and one in the AFC Championship game in a driving snowstorm, aside from numerous clutch kicks during the regular season.

In addition, while some may suggest he's entering the twilight of his career, other kickers such as Gary Anderson and Morten Anderson have gone on to kick into their early 40's.

Adam Vinatieri to Dallas? first suggested the idea back in December. And now that he's avoided the franchise tag by the Patriots, it has a better chance of happening now more than ever.

Stay tuned.

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