Anyone who has read the AFC South Blog for the last 11 months knows by now that I hate punts.
A punt is nothing more than a strategic turnover, and nothing boils the blood faster than watching a coach willingly surrender the ball to the other team.
McAfee is more than just a punter for the Colts. He's a viable weapon and an important part of the community.
Whether or not the Colts should punt as often as they do, when they do punt, McAfee should be the one punting.
It's difficult to make the case for any punter statistically. Often, punters on bad offenses have higher net averages because they kick to long fields more often. There's no magic-bullet stat to prove a punter is effective.
McAfee is among the league leaders in punting average, but obviously that doesn't tell the whole story. Net average is a more important stat overall, but that brings the skill of the coverage unit into play.
Pro Football Focus rated him as the third-most valuable punter in football. He also ranked in the top 10 in touchback percentage on kickoffs. In 2011, he actually led the Colts in special-teams tackles, a testament to just how terrible the unit around him was as well as to his own hustle and skill.
The Colts can choose to franchise McAfee for just under $3 million for next season if they wish. The top three punters in the league by cap hit are all over $3.2 million, so if McAfee wants a top-shelf contract, the Colts could always just franchise him.
Ultimately, it's in McAfee's best interests to stay in Indianapolis. He's been vocal that he wants to stay in town. He's built a huge following on Twitter and is a fantastic presence in the community.
McAfee has established a reputation around the city for wit and levity and is among the more popular Colts. Staying in Indianapolis long term will all but guarantee a robust post-playing career in the local media should he wish to pursue it.
Perhaps the only barrier to long-term harmony between team and player is McAfee's desire to become a place-kicker as well. He's long had a strong leg, but he's obviously blocked by veteran Adam Vinatieri.
McAfee kicks heavily in training camps. His performance in 2012 camp was erratic, but McAfee claimed it was because he didn't have a regular holder.
Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow
@NateDunlevy didn't have a holder in camp.. That changes everything.1/29/2013, 4:03:41 PM
While kicking and punting have rarely been accomplished with any degree of success, McAfee certainly holds extra value as a long-distance kicker. Should the team ever need to try a 60-yard field goal, his leg at least puts the option on the table.
Given the full package of skills McAfee brings to the table and the obvious interest from both sides, it's unthinkable that some kind of arrangement isn't made between team and player.