(“Yes!!! Bob Kraft’s gonna give another speech!”)
Adam Vinatieri will come one step closer to hitting the open seas of free agency today.
The Patriots have until 4 p.m. today to designate a franchise player, and all indications are that they won’t use the designation. New England made Vinatieri their franchise player in 2002 and 2005. Not doing it today means that — unless the team and the kicker come to a contract accord before March 3 — he will be an unrestricted free agent.
The franchise tag allows a team to keep a player out of free agency. Usually, that means paying him a salary equal to the top five salaries at his position. But if a player is already the highest paid at his position, he must be given a 20-percent raise over his previous year’s salary.
The Patriots gave Vinatieri the 20-percent bump last year and paid him $2.51 million. But the expense of franchising Vinatieri in 2006, $3.01 million, is just too rich for New England. By comparison, the highest salaried kicker on the books for 2006 according to the NFLPA Web site is Arizona’s Neil Rackers, who will make $1.8 million.
Best-case scenario for Vinatieri and the Patriots is a new deal before March 3. Rackers, the league’s most productive kicker over the last two seasons, signed a four-year, $6.4-million extension with the Cardinals last November that included a $3-million signing bonus. Certainly, Vinatieri would command the same money, maybe more.
In the unlikely event Vinatieri and New England can’t come to terms, what are the odds a midwestern club might opt for a less idiotic, liquored up kicker?
Not very good, I admit. But if I was trying to fill an extra 10 minutes on WEEI, I’d certainly bring it up.