Earlier today, the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell tweeted out the following about the Colts and punter Pat McAfee:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23colts&src=hash">#colts</a> P Pat McAfee will play '13 under 1-yr, $2.977 mil franchise tag. Only other <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23colts&src=hash">#colts</a> player to play under tag: Edgerrin James in '05.</p>— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) <a href="https://twitter.com/mchappell51/statuses/356479742419021824">July 14, 2013</a></blockquote>
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This comes as no surprise and shouldn't be that much of a cause to worry at this point. There wasn't much talk at all this offseason of a possible long-term extension being reached, and according to Chap it won't be by tomorrow's deadline.
As Chappell mentioned, the only other Colt to play under the franchise tag in a season was running back Edgerrin James in 2005, and following the season the Colts didn't re-sign him and let him go as a free agent to the Cardinals. Is that an indication as to what will happen with McAfee after this year? I doubt it.
First off, consider that it's a very small sample size to be using to indicate a trend. It's only happened one other time. Secondly, there is quite a bit of a difference between a running back's salary and a punter's salary. According to spotrac, there will be only four punters in the NFL this season making more than $2 million dollars, with McAfee's $2.977 million franchise tag coming in at the third highest salary for an NFL punter in 2013 (the Buccaneers' Michael Koenen is first with a $3.25 million base salary). Even then, that likely wouldn't be his yearly salary on a long-term deal. It's not known whether the Colts tried to engage McAfee's camp in talks this offseason, but at the moment, I'm not worried about how long he'll be a Colt.
That's not to say I don't care if he's back or not. McAfee is one of my personal favorite Colts and is one of the most involved in the community. He's got a great personality and is frequently on Indianapolis radio (the Bob and Tom show, JMV, etc.), is a must-follow on twitter, is now going to be hosting the Pat McAfee show on indystar.com this fall (with Bob Kravitz, Mike Chappell, MIke Wells, and other guests), and is writing a column for Fox Sports called McAfee Culture (basically an extension of his twitter feed - check out his first post that went up this week, where he lets people know a little about who he is). Let's just say that the fans really love "the Boomstick" and he's great in Indy.
Added to that, he's a pretty great player on the field too. In 2013, McAfee set franchise records with a 48.2-yard gross average and a 40.3 net average, while at the same tying Hunter Smith's franchise record with 26 punts downed inside the 20 - perhaps the most important thing for a punter to be able to do. Matt Miller ranked McAfee as the league's best punter in his "NFL 1000" series. Added to that is the fact that McAfee has at times been the best tackler on the Colts special teams (a trend that hopefully won't continue) and the fact that he was the team's special teams captain last season, and he suddenly becomes a very valuable player for the Colts franchise - so much so that they used their franchise tag on a punter. He's also their kickoff specialist and field goal holder for kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Lastly, with some Colts players recently getting into a bit of trouble, McAfee represents hope for players to turn their lives around. McAfee is perhaps as famous for his little swimming incident a few years ago as he is for his play on the field, but he's not defined by that anymore. No way. He's turned it around and made the most of his second chance. Just read the above paragraphs again if you need to see how. That's the type of guy you want in your locker room - someone who has made mistakes (as we all have) but has learned from them and gotten it together.
All that said, McAfee will be playing under a one year deal in 2013 as the Colts' franchise player, earning a $2.977 million base salary. The hope is that he'll be a Colt for much longer for that. And hey, maybe if he re-signs next offseason, he will get a spot on Lucas Oil Stadium just like fellow kicker Adam Vinatieri just did (who is also a free agent at the end of the year).
In an email to the Star, McAfee said the following:
"I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to be an Indianapolis Colt for at least another year,’’ McAfee said in an email response to The Star. "A long-term deal is obviously something that every player hopes to one day earn. But to have another year in a city that I love, playing for a team with the best locker room in the league and representing a fan base that is the best in the NFL is awesome.
"My focus and hope is that my talents help bring another Lombardi to an organization and a fan base that deserve it. More so than anything, I’m pumped to have another year to work in the beautiful community of Indianapolis.’’
Indianapolis is no doubt happy to have him for at least another year as well, and Colts fans are hoping for more than one more year too.