The Packers are still without a kicker, though, veterans Paul Edinger and Todd Peterson are looking for jobs. Flip a coin. Both Edinger and Peterson are about the same when it comes to consistency, and neither match up to the departed Ryan Longwell, Vinatieri or Vanderjagt.
Of course, on the bright side, neither Edinger nor Peterson will cost as much as the big three, who signed record-breaking contracts with their respective new teams.
The reality of it all, however, is that Packers are now in a position where they will have to step back in order to go forward at the kicking position. Special teams coordinator Mike Stock says there are no NFL draft-worthy kickers available coming out of college, so Green Bay likely will have sign either Edinger or Peterson, then audition as many young kickers as possible. You never know who will emerge. Remember that the Big Three (Vinatieri-Vanderjagt-Longwell) began their respective stellar careers as NFL free agents in the mid-1990s.
In a way, it's almost better for a kicker, or punter for that matter, to break into the NFL with low expectations. Now it will be up to Stock and the Packers coaching staff to identify an up-and-comer, even if they sign Edinger or Peterson. Longwell turned out to be Green Bay's all-time scoring leader, but was not exactly perfect as a rookie. He made 24 of 30 attempts in 1997, but his strong preseason combined with third-round pick Brett Conway's meltdown opened the door to a record-breaking career.
The Packers have some money to spend, so look for them to land either Edinger or Peterson, then sign a few free agents after the draft. As the rest of the team is getting rebuilt, so will the kicking position. Green Bay didn't need Vinatieri or Vanderjagt anyway. The Packers are not expected to make the playoffs in 2006. If they do, chances are they will not advance far, so why break the bank on a kicker? The Packers are better off spending money on other positions to improve their young team.
And if the Packers decide not to pursue Edinger or Peterson, all is not lost.
The only consistent thing about Edinger, 28, is his inconsistency. He has missed nine or more field goal attempts in each of the last three seasons when he was with Minnesota and Chicago. Edinger converted on 25-of-34 FGs and 100 percent of his extra points in his only season as the No. 1 kicker in Minnesota. Of course, his longest conversion was from 56 yards against the Packers, who fell to the Vikings in the final seconds at the Metrodome.
Peterson, 36, was 23 of 25 (92 percent) and made 100 percent of his extra points in 2005 as the No. 1 kicker in Atlanta. But he had the luxury of kicking in a dome at home and in a division with warm-weather teams. Peterson has made 79.4 percent of his field goals in his career, which is OK, but not great.
Give Ted Thompson credit. He made an offer to Vinatieri. Though, the offer has not been revealed, it reportedly was more than what the Vikings paid Longwell. If that wasn't good enough, so be it.
From a kicker's standpoint, Vinatieri and Vanderjagt hit the jackpot by receiving lucrative deals and a chance to kick in either a dome or warm-weather city. Now it's up to the Packers to uncover a young kicker. It can be done. Whoever heard of Samkon Gado before last October?
Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.