When the Colts signed Jeff Locke as a free agent earlier this offseason, I think many assumed that he would be the replacement for punter Pat McAfee.
It seems he’ll have some competition before he officially wins that job, however, as the Colts signed Rigoberto Sanchez as an undrafted free agent.
According to the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder, Sanchez “received one of the biggest signing bonuses of all the team’s undrafted free agents.” Sanchez told Holder that there were other teams interested in signing him.
So that should be the first indication that perhaps Sanchez will have a legitimate chance to compete for the punter spot, as the Colts wanted to sign him and paid him a significant bonus so that they could beat out other teams. Would they have done that just to bring in a camp leg? Probably not.
The Colts seem to like Sanchez, and he’ll be another one of those players to file away in the back of your mind as a player to keep an eye on.
“I see him more as a combo punt-kickoff specialist immediately,” Tom McMahon, the Colts’ special teams coach, told Holder. “I think [in the long term] he’s going to develop into a very good field goal kicker. I see him on the same leg-talent par as Cody Parkey and Brandon McManus. Those are the only two [free agents] we’ve brought in here. We don’t bring guys in unless we feel like they’re ready to play.”
The fact that the Colts see him as a punter and kickoff specialist right now should be another indication that he’s in the building to compete with Jeff Locke, since that’s the exact job that the Colts need replaced. But Sanchez is also an interesting player because he was a field goal kicker in college too and McMahon mentioned that down the road Sanchez could do that. The Colts don’t need a field goal kicker right now, but down the road? They will, since Adam Vinatieri can’t play forever (at least probably not). So that’s another intriguing thing about Rigoberto Sanchez, as the Colts are already trying to prepare for life after Vinatieri, whenever that might be.
“Right now,” Pagano said yesterday regarding when those preparations are starting. “Obviously, [Vinatieri] is still our guy, but you’ve always got to look ahead and build for the future. Like I said yesterday, [Tom McMahon] went and found a couple of guys this year. [Rigoberto Sanchez] and (Josh) Gable have done a nice job. [Rigoberto] kicked field goals yesterday and Gable went today. Two really good guys. It was windy yesterday. Rigoberto is a duel guy. He punts, kicks off, and kicks PATs and field goals. The wind was a little bit of an issue yesterday, but they both have big legs. Josh didn’t play college ball. He came right out of high school and was a soccer player in Italy. I’m an Italian and I’ve never been to Italy. He’s been over there for whatever amount of time. I’ve got big plans. Those guys are doing a good job. With [Rigoberto] signed as a CFA, we’ll have him here and it will be good.”
The fact that the Colts are already thinking through what life after Vinatieri might be like and that they think that Sanchez can eventually be a good kicker should help Sanchez’s chances too, since the Colts might not want to lose him. They’ve done a good job of identifying free agent kickers to bring in for camp (as McMahon mentioned), as both Cody Parkey and Brandon McManus have gone on to get more opportunities with other teams after participating in a training camp with the Colts.
With roster competitions in the offseason, it’s often about “the more you can do.” The immediate competition is at punter, and that player will need to be able to be the kickoff specialist too. The Colts signed Jeff Locke to fill that role, but Rigoberto Sanchez could push him for those roles - and Indy liked him enough to give him a solid signing bonus in order to beat out other teams. If the Colts think Sanchez can handle the punting and kickoff duties this year, his potential long-term potential as a field goal kicker could factor into the decision too as the Colts think forward to whenever the 44-year old Vinatieri might retire. Maybe Sanchez will be that option or maybe he won’t be, but it should still be noted.
So long story short? Rigoberto Sanchez seems to be legitimately competing to be the team’s punter and kickoff specialist, which will be something to watch this offseason as he battles with Jeff Locke, the presumed favorite.