Adam Vinatieri agreed to terms with the Colts yesterday, and Patriots nation is getting nervous. This is the first major defection of the Belichick era, and give Colts GM Bill Polian credit for upgrading his kicker position while sticking it to his arch-rivals at the same time.
I have mixed emotions about the move. Now I know how Red Sox fans when Carlton Fisk bolted for the White Sox. Vinatieri will always be a legend in Boston, but if he kicks a game-winner against the Patriots in the playoffs that image could take a beating. He'll spend the next two years kicking in the RCA Dome, then the Colts move to a new retractable dome stadium in 2008, ensuring Vinatieri of good home field conditions as he tries to add to his hall of fame resume.
It's easy to understand why the Colts valued Vinatieri so highly. He's the anti-Mike Vanderjagt. Vinatieri has always been known as a good teammate who raises his game in the clutch. In baseball terms, he's Mr. October, while Vanderjagt is Mr. May.
I'd like to think the Patriots considered Vinatieri's age, his (relatively) sub-par 2005 season and his history of back trouble while deciding not to franchise him or make him a substantial offer. But part of me wonders if the Patriots past success is working against them, and making them arrogant enough to think they can name their price regardless of the player. Maybe Paul Edinger or (gulp) Vanderjagt will come in and do a great job next season, but every missed field goal from here on is going to be blamed as much on Belichick and Pioli as on Vinatieri's replacement.