While Colts fans are still getting over the shock of Pat McAfee announcing his retirement from the NFL - after a tremendous career, I might add - there are pretty legitimate implications for the Colts that aren’t getting talked about as much: they now need a new punter.
General manager Chris Ballard already was going to have his hands full this offseason as he inherits a Colts team with a ton of needs, and punter certainly won’t be at the top of his list. But it’s still a need nonetheless, and McAfee’s job isn’t as easy to replace as a typical punter either.
McAfee has been the NFL’s best punter, yes, but he’s also been the best kickoff specialist too - while also serving as the holder for Adam Vinatieri on field goals. So the Colts are going to need to find a guy who can punt, kickoff, and hold - because at 44 years old, Vinatieri isn’t going to be handling the kickoff duties or an added role.
The Colts actually have a candidate already on their roster. In early January, the Colts signed kicker Devon Bell to a reserve/future contract, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him compete for the punter job this offseason. Bell was originally signed as an undrafted free agent last offseason by the Detroit Lions after a collegiate career at Mississippi State, where he punted 83 times and averaged 42.4 yards per punt. He also served as the kickoff specialist for Mississippi State while going 20-for-36 on field goal attempts (55%).
Maybe it will be Bell getting the first look at the punter job, but without a doubt it’s an area that the Colts are going to need to address. Again, that’s not going to mean a huge money free agent or a high draft pick, but it does mean that the Colts are going to need to replace one of their best players. It’s going to be impossible to truly replace McAfee and all he brought to the table, but punter has now been added to the list of needs for the team this offseason.
So we add yet another position to the list of those Chris Ballard needs to address in his first year with the Colts.