We haven't heard much about what the Colts plan to do with their free agents, but we have heard that they are working to re-sign kicker Adam Vinatieri and want to get that deal done. That comes as no surprise, as the 43-year old wants to keep playing, wants to return to the Colts, and the Colts want him back - something owner Jim Irsay has said publicly.
The question regarding re-signing Vinatieri is not whether the Colts should or not (that's a no-brainer) but rather what his contract will be. As the most accurate kicker in football over the past two seasons, Vinatieri certainly could be in line for a nice payday with his new contract.
In recent days, the Baltimore Ravens placed the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker and the Green Bay Packers reached an extension with kicker Mason Crosby. Tucker's franchise tag is a one-year, $4.572 million deal, while Crosby's deal is a four-year contract worth $16.1 million, an average of just over $4 million per season (all contract details in this article are courtesy of Spotrac). The two join Stephen Gostkowski as the three kickers to average over $4 million per season on their current deals. There are 12 kickers in the NFL who currently average more than $3 million per season on their contracts.
With the salary cap at an all-time high, Tucker and Crosby have both received nice paydays this offseason - with Tucker's long-term contract likely coming at some point. But when it comes to Vinatieri's actual play on the field, he compares most favorably with Gostkowski. They have been the two most accurate kickers in football over the past two seasons, with Vinatieri hitting 94.8% of his kicks and Gostkowski hitting 93.2% of his. Gostkowski has hit 29 kicks of 40+ yards during that span, while Vinatieri has hit 22. Gostkowski has made two Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro during the past two years, while Vinatieri has made one Pro Bowl and one first-team All-Pro. Without a doubt, they have been the two best kickers in the league recently. Last year, Gostkowski signed an extension with the Patriots worth $17.2 million over four years with a $6 million bonus, averaging $4.3 million on that deal. At the same time, however, he was just 31 when he signed that contract - 12 years younger than Vinatieri is now!
When looking at Vinatieri's past deals, we see that he could be in line for a raise this offseason. CBS4's Mike Chappell took a look at Vinatieri's previous three contracts with the Colts: in 2006, he signed a five-year, $12 million deal (an average of $2.4M per year); in 2011, he signed a three-year, $9.2M deal (an average of 3.1M per year); and in 2014, he signed a two-year, $5M deal (an average of $2.5M per year).
So in putting this all together, we're trying to assess the appropriate value for Vinatieri's next deal. In terms of length, it will almost certainly be either a one or two year deal (Vinatieri has suggested he may want to play more than one year), but in terms of value, it's harder to pinpoint. His production states that he should be in the same group as Stephen Gostkowski (and, now, Justin Tucker and Mason Crosby), but his age likely factors into things as well. Still, with the salary cap at an all-time high and Vinatieri kicking as well as he ever has, he deserves to be rewarded as such. Considering the fact that 12 kickers currently average $3M or more on their contracts, Vinatieri should be in that group. It seems fitting, then, for Vinatieri to get a new deal worth an average of around $3.5 million per season. If it's lower than that, the Colts are likely getting a bargain, and if it's higher than that, the Colts are likely paying Vinatieri what his production warrants.