INDIANAPOLIS – In one offseason, the Colts have lost their greatest sack man of all-time and their greatest punter.
Whereas Robert Mathis’ retirement was expected, Pat McAfee enters post-football life at the peak of his game.
McAfee is arguably the NFL’s best punter.
His name is seen everywhere in the Colts’ record books.
- Franchise records for punting average (46.4) and net punting average (39.8).
- Franchise records for kickoff (645) and touchbacks (350).
- Holds the six best individual punting seasons in Colts history.
- McAfee also has his name on NFL records for touchback percentage in a single season (87.0 percent in 2015) and he is the NFL’s all-time playoff leader in net punting average (46.9).
One of the many reasons why McAfee was one of the game’s best punters came from his versatility.
An elite ability to kickoff, coupled with his variety in punts, has helped McAfee become such a valuable piece for the Colts.
How will the Colts go about replacing those voids?
Don’t expect it to come from Adam Vinatieri. At the age of 44, Vinatieri is still one of the NFL’s best field goal kickers. But days of him kicking off are likely done. Vinatieri isn’t a punter either.
In early January, the Colts did go out and sign young punter/kicker Devon Bell, a 2016 undrafted free agent who has punting experience and kickoff work from his collegiate days at Mississippi State. Having yet to play in an NFL regular season game, Bell spent the 2016 preseason with the Detroit Lions.
New GM Chris Ballard could spend a draft pick on a new punter/kickoff man. The Colts have a full cupboard of draft picks, outside of their seventh rounder (which they traded for former DL-Billy Winn in 2015). If the Colts earn a seventh-round compensatory pick later this offseason, which is a possibility, that could be used on a rookie punter.
The Colts could venture the free agency route to find a McAfee replacement.
Along with punting and kickoff off, McAfee has also been the team’s holder for the last eight years.
When Chris Ballard signed on to join the Colts earlier this week, punter was not on his off-season needs list.
It is now, after one of the league’s most effective and versatile kickers decided to head into retirement.
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