FOXBORO, MA — Bill Belichick said during the season that when you look at kicker Adam Vinatieri, “you don’t really see a kicker, you just see a football player.”
It looks like Belichick hasn’t changed his mind about the six-year veteran, and the team rewarded Vinatieri on Friday with a new three-year contract.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The deal also allows New England to remove the franchise tag that was placed on him back in late February. The Patriots had until close of business on March 15th to reach a deal with the playoff hero to remove the franchise label. Had New England failed to get a deal done with him Vinatieri would have been paid $1.24 million for the 2002 season (the average salary of the top five kickers in the league) with no signing bonus, but would have likely caused an irreparable split between the two sides.
Not exactly the best way to reward someone who without his heroics may have kept them from winning a title.
The South Dakota native came up with a clutch 45-yard kick on a snow covered field against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional playoff game which erased a 3-point deficit and helped send the game into overtime. He later kicked a 23-yard field goal to win the game and earned his team a trip to the AFC Championship game.
His final kick of the year came in storybook fashion, on a 48-yard field goal as time expired to win the Superbowl and send his team home with the Vince Lombardy Trophy back on February 3rd.
Vinatieri has been very consistent since he replaced Matt Bahr back in 1996. In his six-year career with the team he has converted 160-of-199 regular season field goal attempts (80.4%). He’s also scored over 100-points in every season he’s been in the league and has been a key factor on kickoff coverage. The former high-school linebacker has made several touchdown saving tackles during his career, his most famous one came when he ran down former runningback Herschel Walker.
But he’s a football player who just happens to kick field goals, and at least for the next three years he’ll be kicking them in a Patriots uniform.