In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts made a rare free agency splash and signed kicker Adam Vinatieri. Since then, he has been one of the team’s most consistent players. After re-signing with the Colts this offseason, Vinatieri is now on pace to have played more games with the team than future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
Colts and future Hall-of-Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri are finalizing a one-year contract, per league sources. The NFL's all-time leading scorer now will return for a 24th season at the age of 46.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 25, 2019
Let’s rewind to the offseason of 2018. Obviously at that time, the topic of discussion wasn’t how the team was going to replace Vinatieri. Most people were focused on how the rehabilitation of Andrew Luck’s throwing shoulder was going. (Side note: he turned out just fine.)
Back to 2018. Specifically, May 1st. On that day, the Indianapolis Colts signed kicker Michael Badgley to a 3-year deal, with a whopping $4,000 in guaranteed cash. Signing a kicker during the offseason is pretty much standard protocol for the Colts. The kicker is basically used as a “camp body” to preserve Vinatieri’s leg for the season. Meanwhile, the signee gets to show off his abilities for the other 31 teams in the league during the preseason, in the hopes of landing a job somewhere else.
The Colts ended up releasing Badgley before the start of the regular season, but not before he had connected on all 5 of his field goal attempts in the preseason, with a long of 51 yards.
Midway through the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Chargers signed Badgley to their active roster, and they haven’t looked back. The 23 year-old kicker only missed one field goal, notching an impressive 15 of 16 kicks made, including one from 59 yards out.
Since the start of 2017:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 26, 2019
Most field goals made:
1. Robbie Gould: 72
2. Justin Tucker: 69
3. Greg Zuerlein: 65
Best field goal percentage:
1. Robbie Gould: 96.0%
2. Michael Badgley: 93.8%
3. Graham Gano: 93.5%
So, if Badgley is so good - why did the Colts just let him go?
Everyone knows that the 46 year-old isn’t getting any younger, but Vinatieri is still producing at an efficient level. Last season, a “down year” labeled by some, was right on par with his career average of 84.3% field goal percentage, making 85.2% of his kicks.
However, field goal percentage isn’t the entire answer to the question. General manager Chris Ballard values locker room culture almost as much as performance. In an offseason interview when asked if the team plans to re-sign Vinatieri, Ballard had this to say:
“I don’t know if I’ve been around a special-teams player that has as much impact as Adam does in the locker room from a positive standpoint” Ballard said. “All of our young guys that come in get to see Adam Vinatieri work, rehab, prepare his body every year, be a pro, handle the hard times, handle the good times.”
Ballard’s response is the perfect answer to why the team didn’t replace Vinatieri with a younger, cheaper option. The NFL’s all-time leading scorer has become a leader for the young locker room in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts earn an AFC playoff spot for the first time since 2014 with a 10-6 record, was selected as the 2018 NFL Executive of the Year.— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 17, 2019
While the Colts may have missed out on a quality young kicker, fans should trust in what Ballard is doing. The PFWA’s executive of the year chose veteran savvy and leadership as he continues to build a championship locker room.
Oh, also, the Colts aren’t keeping a slouch with that Vinatieri guy.