Adam Vinatieri announced last week he is calling it a career after splitting his legendary 24 seasons between the New England Patriots (1996-2005) and Indianapolis Colts (2006-20), but the story could have gone much differently based on the testimony of a former Green Bay Packers executive.
Andrew Brandt, who previously served as the Packers Vice President of Player Finance and General Counsel, wrote Vinatieri’s retirement in his June column for Sports Illustrated and told a (previously unheard) story about how Green Bay came “this close” to signing him in 2006 before he ultimately signed with the Colts.
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How Vinatieri (Nearly) Became a Packer
Back then, Vinatieri was a 32-year-old placekicker with a prolific resume who was entering free agency for the first time in his career, while the Packers had just lost longtime starter Ryan Longwell to Minnesota in free agency. The fit was natural enough that nobody was surprised when Vinatieri made a visit to Green Bay to explore a fit, especially given Brandt had a previous connection to him as his former agent.
According to Brandt, he initially thought Vinatieri’s visit to the Packers was meant to leverage more money out of the Patriots, but it became clear through their conversations that he was “dead-set on leaving New England.” It eventually built to the point where, following a dinner together, Brandt said he “went to bed truly believing that Adam was going to be a Packer.”
Alas, fate intervened, as Brandt explained:
The next morning, however, things changed. Adam called with an apologetic tone, treating me more as a friend and former client than as a team executive. He sighed and said, “Andrew, [Bill] Polian [the general manager of the Colts] called. I gotta go there. It’s a dome!”The Colts offered less money than we did, but they had something we could not compete with: the opportunity to kick in a dome, which Adam thought (correctly) would extend his career by years. I sometimes think, as I do now, that if Polian hadn’t called that night, Adam would have been kicking at Lambeau Field, and we never would’ve drafted Mason Crosby the next year. The world works in mysterious ways.
Packers Struck Kicking Gold Anyways
It is interesting to wonder about what might have been for the Packers given how the rest of Vinatieri’s career went in Indianapolis. He is retiring at the age of 48 with 29 game-winning kicks to his name, including one in two different Super Bowls, and stands as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points scored. And yet, wondering isn’t the same thing as lamenting.
The Packers may have missed out on Vinatieri and been forced to go with a short-term solution for the position in 2006, but it was only a year later that they used a sixth-round pick to select Mason Crosby, who has been their starter ever since. Crosby now holds numerous franchise kicking records for the Packers and continues to be an important piece of their team, not only as a steady piece of their special teams but also as a veteran leader who represents his teammates on NFL Players Association matters.
Crosby was also unquestionably the better financial decision as Vinatieri made $4.48 million in his first year with the Colts whereas the Packers paid less than $2.3 million for the first four years of Crosby. According to Spotrac, Vinatieri earned a total of $39.7 million during his 14 seasons with the Colts while Crosby — who has received a pay bump as his play improved — has earned about $37.599 million over the same amount of time with the Packers.