Indianapolis Colts: Why Adam Vinatieri Should Be Released

Kyle J. Rodriguez@@coltsauth_kyleCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2013

Vinatieri (4) and McAfee (1) have made a good special teams duo over the past few years, but it may be time to split them up.
Vinatieri (4) and McAfee (1) have made a good special teams duo over the past few years, but it may be time to split them up.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In an era when special teams specialists have an incredibly hard time getting into the Hall of Fame, Adam Vinatieri has as good of a chance as anybody. 

His reputation grew as a clutch kicker with game winning kicks throughout the 2000s, including a five-field goal masterpiece during the Colts' Super Bowl run in 2006, cementing himself as the most well-known kicker of the decade. 

In 2012, Vinatieri proved valuable once again with game-winning kicks against the Vikings and Dolphins of 53 and 43 yards, respectively. 

However, all good things must come to an end. Although Vinatieri's contract isn't up until 2014, the Colts should strongly consider cutting the 17-year veteran this offseason. 

While Colts' fans have many fond memories of Vinatieri, despite his role in their demise during the early 2000s, the truth is that he simply is no longer worth his current contract. Vinatieri will count for $3.4 million against the cap in 2013, the third highest among kickers.

But Vinatieri simply isn't a top three kicker anymore, and it's not even close. 

In 2012, Vinatieri made just 78.4% of his field goal attempts, 30th in the NFL. Now, one could argue that because Vinatieri is getting older, he simply doesn't have the leg to hit long field goals anymore, and he can still be effective, but coaches need to know his range. 

One could argue that, but one would be wrong. 

Yes, Vinatieri doesn't have the strongest leg anymore. 

Yes, any coach that doesn't take his kicker's range into effect will result in a lower accuracy and more wasted drives. 

But the Colts' problem wasn't long field goals. Vinatieri actually was a respectable 5-8 from 50 yards or more, sixth best among kickers with at least five attempts. No, the problem with Vinatieri was his too frequent misses from elsewhere on the field. 

Remember the loss to Jacksonville in Week 3? Vinatieri hit a go-ahead field goal with a minute left in that one, a 37-yarder that gave the Colts a 17-16 lead. But Vinatieri also missed a 36-yard attempt just a few minutes earlier, something that would have completely changed the rest of the game. Vinatieri would go on to also miss a kick in the fourth quarter of the wild card loss to the Ravens while the game was still a one-score contest. 

Overall, Vinatieri missed three attempts from 30-39 yards, two from 40-49, and three from 50 or longer. For a kicker who's getting paid like a top five kicker, that won't cut it. 

Of course, there are counterpoints. Namely, Vinatieri has the cold blood and experience that a young team with high hopes could use, especially in the final year of his contract with a team that should be reloaded and primed for a solid year. Veteran leadership is something that cannot be quantified. 

On the other hand, Pat McAfee is loved by players and fans alike, and is coming into his own as a locker room presence and leader. Add in the fact that Vinatieri doesn't handle kickoffs (he's one of just four field-goal kickers to not attempt a kickoff this year), but leaves that to McAfee, and you really may not be losing as much as it seems. 

The good sign for Vinatieri is that the Colts are not hurting for cap space, with over $40 million unclaimed. If there was any year to keep an overpriced veteran, it would be this one. But, if the Colts' need for a free agent signing comes down to a couple million dollars they don't have, Vinatieri would be worth the cut. 

There are a few options in this year's draft, and at the very least, Pat McAfee has shown he can take place kicking duties (and has begged to do it). 

Again, if the Colts want to hold on to him and allow Vinatieri to go out on his terms, the reality is that a couple million dollars in this business isn't going to break the bank. But, should a key free agent signing come down to a lack of cap room, cutting the aging, wavering kicker is the easiest way for the franchise to save some money. 


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