Teams Hesitant To Overpay For Kickers

Is Adam Vinatieri going to return to Foxboro, or is he set at playing for whomever offers him the biggest paycheck? It appears the latter will have to wait, at least until someone else makes him an offer. Vinatieri leaves Green Bay without a contract. What's next for the Patriots prized free agent?

Vinatieri was in Green Bay this weekend to meet with the Packers regarding their open spot on the roster for a clutch, bad-weather experienced kicker. The Packers wined and dined the unrestricted free agent Thursday night, then gave him a tour of Lambeau Field and the facilities on Friday. After all was said and done, Vinatieri left Green Bay without a contract. But the Packers were confident the meeting went well.

"I think the meeting was very positive," McCarthy told Packernews.com. "Everybody that met with him, the feeling was mutual, and he felt very comfortable. He made clear he's open to moving on and starting a new chapter in his career."

Vinatieri, a ten-year seasoned veteran known for making clutch kicks in big games, is looking to cash in on his ability in what is considered a sellers market. With only a few high-profile names left, Vinatieri ranks as the top dog. Yet even top dogs are fed a little bit of humble pie every now and then.

The Patriots attempted to retain their prized kicker with an offer which would have made him the highest paid kicker in the league at the time, reportedly worth over two-million a year. Vinatieri passed on that deal, opting to test the free agent market for offers he believed would be a major improvement over what the Patriots were willing to part with. Having played under the franchise tag in 2005 for a little over $2.5 million, it is assumed Vinatieri and his agent are looking for $3 million or more a year.

The market was expected to fall into place with Vinatieri securing the big money, and the rest of the top kickers working out deals close to that number. It didn't turn out that way when Green Bay's kicker Ryan Longwell agreed to a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for $10 million over 5 years and a $2 million signing bonus. It was decent money for Longwell, so he jumped at it, but it set the bar a little low for Vinatieri who was reportedly disappointed in how it may affect his negotiations.

Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant was another free agent looking for a new deal. Instead of going for top dollar, Bryant stayed with his current team and some stability. Stability for a kicker in his 30's has a lot of appeal. Kickers in their 30's are also looking at possibly their last big payday, which is may be the case for Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt who have been with the same clubs for their entire careers.

Only Indianapolis' Vanderjagt is expected to come close to Vinatieri's deal at this point, but the Colts GM Bill Polian's perceived lack of faith in Vanderjagt's kickoffs may affect his market value. With roster spots at a premium, few teams can afford to have two kickers on the active roster, which is how Indianapolis addressed Vanderjagt's short kickoffs.

Green Bay and Dallas were expected to make better offers than the Patriots to pry Vinatieri away, yet that seems to be a fading prospect at this time. According to a report published earlier by TheRanchReport.com, Dallas appears ready to pursue cheaper alternatives to the contract required to pry Vinatieri away from New England. Green Bay may also be stepping out of the market. Heading into the visit, Packers coach Mike McCarthy knew that to sign Vinatieri it would require a substantial deal better than the reported $2 million per year already out there and he wanted to make sure that he would be willing to leave the Patriots if they made an offer.

"We made sure of that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Journal Sentinel. "We didn't want to get into it if he wasn't interested. Andrew Brandt is his former agent, so there's a relationship there.

"Like anything you want a fair opportunity to compete. If that's the case we'd love to have him be part of our football team."

Now that Vinatieri is back home in Orlando with his family, it comes down to who is willing to pay the price Vinatieri is asking for. Only New England has an offer on the table at the moment so odds are favoring them. Yet if Green Bay makes a deal that one-ups the Patriots' deal Vinatieri has already said he's willing to move. In a rebuilding year for Green Bay, it makes little sense for the Packers to shell out close to $3 million for a kicker when they lost games by an average of more than a field goal last year. Defense seems to be their biggest need. Todd Korth of The Packer Report agrees.

"Vinatieri is seeking to become the highest-paid kicker ever in the NFL. He certainly has the credentials as the fifth most accurate kicker all-time." Korth wrote in a column this week. "The Packers realistically don't have a chance of advancing to the Super Bowl in 2006. They really don't have that good of a chance at winning the NFC North Division. So why would the Packers even consider paying Vinatieri $3 million-plus a season? It simply doesn't make sense."

Agreed. It doesn't make much sense especially when Brett Favre is looking for them to bring in play makers or else he'll retire.

For now Vinatieri remains a free agent, but at some point, someone else is going to make him an offer he can't refuse. Will it be the Patriots? Not by the looks of things now.

Adam Vinatieri and family at Patriots training camp 2005.
Adam Vinatieri hangs out with his family after practice (8/2005)

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