Losing out on Vinatieri a kick in the teeth

And kicking for the Green Bay Packers next season will be ...?

Well, it's not going to be Ryan Longwell and it's not going to Adam Vinatieri, which by default means the Packers have taken a step backward, which isn't a good thing when you're coming off a 4-12 season.

Was Longwell worth the $10 million over five years the Vikings paid to steal him from Green Bay? Is Vinatieri worth the reported $17 million over seven years the Colts paid to steal him from New England?

If a kicker isn't worth his weight in gold, he's at least worth his weight in wins. Remember 2004, when Longwell made four game-winning field goals. Remember those two Super Bowls Vinatieri won with last-second kicks. If the Packers are in position to win a game in the final seconds, will you feel as comfortable with Joe Blow kicking the ball as you would with Longwell and Vinatieri?

Of course not, unless general manager Ted Thompson finds a competent kicker.

So, where does Thompson turn, because competent kickers aren't exactly growing on free-agent trees.

The big name out there is Mike Vanderjagt. The unrestricted free agent is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, and with his Colts now in possession of arguably the greatest kicker in league history, he's officially looking for a new team. Then again, his lofty numbers — he's made 87.5 percent of his field goals in his first eight years — were put together in the comfy confines of the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. He's not particularly clutch, either, which you probably noticed during last year's playoff loss to Pittsburgh. As for kickoffs, Ryan Longwell is Albert Pujols compared to Vanderjagt's Scott Podsednik.

The obvious name out there is former Bear and Viking Paul Edinger. He's a career 75 percent on field goals, and two of his career makes were game-winners against the Packers last season. On the plus side, he's used to kicking in foul weather, and he's a career 66.7 percent from 50-plus yards. On the minus side, he hasn't been better than 75 percent since 2002, and he's not particularly good on kickoffs, either. His agent has been in contact with the Packers, but the kicker met with the Patriots on Tuesday.

The other available free agents have their share of warts. Baltimore's Aaron Elling, a restricted free agent, has a powerful leg but he's only 67.9 percent on field goals during his three seasons. Seattle's Josh Brown, also a restricted free agent, has a powerful leg and is 78.8 percent for his career, but the Seahawks have oodles of salary-cap space and likely will match a Packers offer. Todd Peterson is an unrestricted free agent who made 92 percent of his field goals in Atlanta last season. But he's entering his 13th year, his leg isn't strong, and in his last season kicking in foul weather, 2002 in Pittsburgh, he was only 57.1 percent on field goals.

Pick a kicker in the draft? The Packers have only five draft picks.

Find a standout in NFL Europe? Perhaps, but by the time November and December rolls around, his leg is going to be exhausted. Most likely, Thompson will go to the bargain bin and hope he finds lightning in a bottle, just like Ron Wolf did when he found Ryan Longwell to challenge his third-round pick, Brett Conway, in 1997.

If Thompson gets lucky, then life after Longwell won't be so harsh. Otherwise, any chance of the Packers rebounding in 2006 will come up short and wide right.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com,

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