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Kickin' With The Colts; Vinatieri Set To Join Former Rivals...
As insider Len Pasquarelli framed it: "In a move fraught with irony on any number of fronts, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history is about to be replaced by one of the most clutch placement specialists in the game. ..."

This after unrestricted free agent Adam Vinatieri, who provided the winning field goals in two of the New England Patriots' three Super Bowl victories, reached a contract agreement in principle with the Colts on Tuesday.

According to Pasquarelli, complete terms of the contract were not immediately available, but league sources indicated the multi-year deal includes a signing bonus of $3.5 million and that it averages $2.5 million over the first three years of the contract.

Vinatieri is scheduled to fly to Indianapolis for a news conference scheduled for later today. The Colts' official web site, however, has already confirmed the agreement.

Vinatieri, the NFL's leading scorer in 2004, is a career 81.9 percent field-goal kicker, having made 263 of 321 attempts. He also has handled kickoff duties throughout his career. He has 61 career touchbacks, including a career-high 10 last season.

But as Pasquarelli pointed out, Vinatieri is best known for converting numerous clutch kicks over the course of his 10-year career. And at age 33, he might become even better, given that he will be kicking much of the time in a domed stadium now -- working in concert with one of the league's most prolific scoring offenses -- after a career often spent in blustery conditions. staffer John Oehser reminded the team's fans last night that in the 2001 postseason, Vinatieri's 45-yard field goal in a driving snowstorm helped the Patriots force overtime against the Oakland Raiders in an AFC Divisional Playoff. His 23-yard overtime field goal gave the Patriots the victory.

Two games later, his 48-yard field goal on the game's final play provided the winning points in New England's 20-17 Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the St Louis Rams.

In the 2003 post-season, Vinatieri's 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave the Patriots a 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Vinatieri's move to Indianapolis is also notable given that Indianapolis and New England have been rivals for the last several seasons.

He will replace longtime kicker Mike Vanderjagt, the NFL's all-time field-goal accuracy leader and the Colts' leading scorer each of the past eight seasons. Vanderjagt, like Vinatieri, became an unrestricted free agent following this past season.

Vinatieri's signing with Indy came as quite a surprise, even to those who follow free agency closely. There were no hints before Tuesday afternoon that the Colts were even interested in Vinatieri, who visited last week with Green Bay officials, but left without a contract.

The consensus was that Vinatieri, who was said to be disappointed by the five-year, $10 million contract that former Packers kicker Ryan Longwell signed with Minnesota last week, because it did not drive up the market, might wait a while before deciding his future. The consensus around the league also was that Indianapolis might have to settle for a young, lesser-known kicker to supplant Vanderjagt.

In fact, it was only last week that Indianapolis re-signed journeyman kicker Jose Cortez, who was with the Colts at the end of the 2005 season as a kickoff specialist, for insurance.

That insurance obviously won't be necessary now. ...

According to Indianapolis Star beat man Mike Chappell, in a recent interview, head coach Tony Dungy made it clear that while the Colts had decided not to re-sign Vanderjagt, it was imperative to find a suitable replacement.

"It's one thing to say (a player) shouldn't be back," Dungy said. "You have to get people that are better. That's what we always are going to try to do.

"We're not going to get rid of people unless we think we have good alternatives."

Good plan. It's hard to imagine a better alternative than Vinatieri. ...

Meanwhile, NFL Network insider Adam Schefter reports that even before Vinatieri signed with Indianapolis, the Patriots brought in former Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings kicker Paul Edinger for a visit.

Edinger has connected on 75 percent of his NFL field goals, including 25 of 34 last season. In New England, Edinger would be facing conditions like the ones he endured in Chicago, not indoors in Minnesota last season.

But the Patriots also are exploring other prospects.

According to Schefter, they contacted Vanderjagt and are in the process of arranging a visit with him. But the Cowboys also have expressed an interest in Vanderjagt.

As for the Packers. ... They appear to be running out of options now that Vinatieri is no longer available. The agent for Edinger, Ken Harris, told staffer Rob Demovsky on Tuesday evening he had been in contact with the Packers, but not since news broke of Vinatieri's deal.

"I've always said I'd like to know where Vinatieri and Vanderjagt go, and then I'd like to see what our market is," Harris said. "I still think that's probably not a bad idea. Now we know where Vinatieri is going, but I have no idea where Vanderjagt is going."

Edinger beat the Packers twice last season with game-winning field goals as time expired -- a 56-yarder in the Metrodome in a 23-20 victory on Oct. 23 and a 27-yarder in a 20-17 victory at Lambeau Field on Nov. 21.

"A lot of people have said to me, ‘Wouldn't it make perfect sense for them to be interested in Paul because he beat them twice last year?'" Harris said. "But he beat other guys, too. I don't know if that affects things directly.

"We'll see where it goes. I've called (the Packers) twice, and they were courteous enough to return the phone calls, but again I called them."

Harris said he has talked to Atlanta, New England and Dallas on Edinger's behalf.

Demovsky went on to suggest that if they don't sign an established veteran, Packers general manager Ted Thompson could find a kicker through the draft or sign a less-experienced veteran who has bounced around the league.

And that strategy can work out. After all, Longwell was a waiver-wire pickup who made the Packers' roster after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers.