INDIANAPOLIS —We all know by now that Adam Vinatieri is going to return for a 23rd NFL season in 2018.
Whether or not that's with the Indianapolis Colts is the question.
Vinatieri, who at 45 has seemingly gotten better with age — particularly since turning the big 4-0 — as the Colts' kicker, is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the league's new year begins at 4 p.m. March 14.
That gives general manager Chris Ballard some time to either decide to reach out to pursue a new deal, or let Vinatieri test the market and risk starting over at the position.
For his part, Vinatieri said he'd love to return to Indy for a 13th season with the Colts, but certainly understands the business side of those types of decisions either way.
"I feel like my body is still in good shape, and I can help and contribute to a team," he said. "So, hopefully it's here. We'll see. It's a business. I understand how all that works, so we'll see where it goes."
Vinatieri in 2017 continued his solid ways, as he converted 29-of-34 field goal attempts (85.3 percent) and 22-of-24 extra-point tries (91.7 percent). Of his five field goal misses, two came during an absolute blizzard Week 14 against the Bills in Buffalo, and two others happened two weeks later against the Baltimore Ravens in a driving rainstorm, as one attempt from 60 yards out was inches away from clearing the crossbar, while another attempt was blocked.
He also earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the 17th time in his career in Week 5 when he connected on all four of his field goal attempts — including the game-winner in overtime — in the Colts' 26-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Two of his kicks, including the winner, were from 50-plus yards.
Vinatieri said the direction of the Colts franchise "definitely weighs in on all decisions" he'll make moving forward. The Colts ended their season by parting ways with head coach Chuck Pagano after six seasons at the helm of the franchise, and Ballard is currently trying to secure his replacement. The team is also in search of a new special teams coordinator, after Tom McMahon left to take the same position with the Denver Broncos on Jan. 10.
Wherever he lands, Vinatieri, who has played in 30 career playoff games and won four Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots and the Colts, simply wants to get back on the winning track.
"I've been very fortunate to play on two very successful teams, franchises, over 22 years, and I enjoy playing on teams that win games," he said. "So, hopefully we can get back there on this team as well, but that always plays a factor. It's fun playing in January, February. It's fun having a chance to play for a championship."
If he does return to Indianapolis in 2018, Vinatieri has a chance to continue building what has been a solid foundation laid by two younger players at the other core special teams positions for the Colts.
Punter/kickoff specialist/holder Rigoberto Sanchez had a phenomenal first season in the NFL in 2017, as he was named to the Pro Football Writers of America's 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team, while Luke Rhodes had no major hiccups in his first experience as a long snapper since his high school days.
"Yeah, obviously, this is a family to me," Vinatieri said of the Colts. "I've been in this building for a long time. I know most of the people that work in it, if not all of them, and obviously, these guys in the locker room fighting on the field with me are my brothers as well. So, it'd be nice to stick around. My family is comfortable here, but we'll see how it goes."2018 Colts Free Agent Watch:* *
- Wide receiver Kamar Aiken
- Inside linebacker Jon Bostic
- Safety Darius Butler
- Cornerback Pierre Desir
- Running back Frank Gore
- Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
- Guard Jack Mewhort
- Running back Christine Michael
- Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo
- Wide receiver Donte Moncrief
- Center Mike Person
- Quarterback Scott Tolzien
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri
- Tight end Brandon Williams
4 Vinatieri, Adam K 6-0 212lbs 45yrs 22yrs South Dakota State