Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee, and long snapper Matt Overton like to call themselves the "fourth down players," seeing as they are the special teams guys who typically only play on fourth down.
This offseason, two of the three players that make up the core of that group were free agents, and the future remained unclear as to whether they would be back.
Last week, Pat McAfee announced that he had signed a five year extension to remain with the Colts, but it looked like Vinatieri might not be back. As we always say, however, deadlines spur action, and today the Colts announced that they had re-signed Adam Vinatieri to a two year extension. Both of the kickers are back, and they join Overton, who is fresh off of a pro bowl berth in 2013.
In 2013, the group made a prolific unit. Vinatieri connected on 35 of 40 field goals, including 19 of 23 from 40+ yards out. McAfee averaged 46.0 yards per punt, had 7 punts downed for a touchback and 27 downed inside the 20 yard line, setting a new franchise record. Throughout it all, Overton was the long snapper and was always reliable. Behind those three players, the Colts special teams unit is a very good one, as their kicking game is very dangerous. When the Colts need a field goal, Vinatieri can hit from almost anywhere and especially if they need a field goal at the end of the game, there's no one better in the league (or NFL history, for that matter) than the 41-year old legend. Having McAfee at punter is a great weapon as well, as sometimes the most important thing is winning the field position battle, which McAfee helps the Colts to do. And while those two get the statistical credit, don't forget about Matt Overton, who gets the ball to both Vinatieri and McAfee and ensures that it's always a good snap. Overton was recognized for his play in 2013 by being named to the pro bowl.
Here's what I wrote about the group in my 2013 positional review of the special teams unit while giving them an "A" grade for the season:
"Kicker Adam Vinatieri had a tremendous season at the age of 41, making 35 of 40 field goals (87.5%), including 15/17 from 40-49 yards out and 4/6 from over 50 yards with a long on the season of 52. No kicker in the NFL made more field goals from more than 40 yards out than Vinatieri's 19. He also converted on all 34 of his extra point attempts. At the age of 41, Vinatieri was still as good as he ever has been and had one of the best seasons of his career and one of the best performances by a kicker in the NFL in 2013.
"Punter Pat McAfee also had a good season, averaging 46.0 yards per punt with a net average of 38.5. He had a punt blocked but pinned 27 inside the 20 yard line (a franchise record) with 7 touchbacks. It was actually only the third best season of his five year career and his worst since 2010 when looking at average, but it was still a good season for McAfee and he was as much of a weapon as ever. He also handled kickoff duties once again and was still one of the best tackling punters in the NFL. No one will forget when he laid out Broncos return man Trindon Holliday. It was a 56-yard return, but you wouldn't be able to tell that from the reaction of the crowd. Lucas Oil Stadium erupted when McAfee laid him out - and that's just what McAfee does, as he is as good of a tackler as you will get from a kicker or a punter.
"Long snapper Matt Overton also had a tremendous season, and he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl berth for it. In his second season with the Colts, Overton was again great and you hardly ever heard of him - which is a great thing for a long snapper - unless he was down the field making a tackle, because his motor never stopped until the play was over."
Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee are both team leaders and between the two of them they account for the Colts' field goal kicker, field goal holder, punter, kickoff specialist, special teams tackler, and team captain. It's big that both of them are back. Overton is due to become a restricted free agent next offseason, and that one seems like a pretty obvious decision for the Colts - bring him back.
Some of the special teams players from last year won't be back. Even special teams ace Sergio Brown, who is a free agent, has yet to be re-signed. The nature of special teams is that the backup players play on the coverage units, meaning that the units change frequently. The three most important special teams positions, however, are kicker, punter, and long snapper, and they make up the core of any team's special teams unit. For the Colts, they have all three of them back once again in 2014, and that's a very good thing. Expect much of the same from the Colts' fourth down players next season, which is exactly what the Colts needed.
I wrote earlier in the offseason about how the moves the Colts make with their special teams players who were due to become free agents would show greatly how much value the Colts put into special teams. It's clear they do value it, as they re-signed both McAfee and Vinatieri, and with a fourth down attack like the one the Colts have in Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, and Matt Overton, it was the smart thing to do.
And we're the 3 best friends that anyone can watch play on 4th downs for Indianapolis for at least 2 more years pic.twitter.com/TMJ2c3pUPV— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 11, 2014