by Kent Sterling
There are two ways to go about building a roster – go cheap on kickers and punters, and hope for the best. Or invest in known quantities at those two positions, and attack the headache spots elsewhere with slightly diminished resources.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson made the decision today to sign kicker Adam Vinatieri to a two-year extension. Punter Pat McAfee signed a five-year deal last week worth $14 million. That removes all doubt that hoping for the best is not in Grigson’s lexicon.
Compared to many other teams who churn their specialists, the Colts will spend approximately $5-million more to assure excellence on special teams.
While Colts fans correctly love both McAfee and Vinatieri, when they see back-up cornerbacks get torched or a left guard whiff on a block that causes mayhem in the pocket and Andrew Luck being dropped to the turf, it’s worth evaluating without emotion which they would rather see – anonymous specialists who do their best or Luck on his ass/an opposing wideout torching a undrafted free agent backup cornerback?
Those are the decisions Grigson and the other 31 NFL GMs make everyday. With a specific amount of cash to allocate everywhere, decisions and sacrifices must be made.
Both McAfee and Vinatieri are coming off solid seasons that exposed a downside should the Colts have decided to move on without them. A dearth of picks in the upcoming NFL Draft makes addressing those needs difficult.
Grigson is a grinder who does his homework, and it’s possible that if he saw a punter or kicker that he could take as a UFA, the decision to move on without McAfee and Vinatieri might have been made. Neither you nor I have any clue whether there is another Graham Gano or Johnny Hekker out there, but Grigson does.
Another key is the very limited free agent class this offseason. If Grigson decided to invest his cash elsewhere, would it make any difference?
If it’s my money, I do exactly what Grigson did. McAfee is excellent and if the Colts special teams can cover punts and kickoffs without the need for him to make one too many tackles, he will be elite for the duration of his deal. Vinatieri fits for the next two years while Luck is still shy of his first huge deal.
In free agency, you sign to your needs rather than allow more needs to be created through not signing your own.