Colts' Vinatieri, Bullitt agree to 3-year deals
The best clutch kicker in league history is staying put. So is Bob Sanders' replacement.
On Wednesday, Adam Vinatieri and Melvin Bullitt both agreed to three-year deals, keeping them in Indianapolis. Details of the deals were not immediately available, and team spokesman Avis Roper said the Colts would not confirm any transactions until later this week because players cannot officially sign contracts until Friday.
Vinatieri's agent, Gary Uberstine, confirmed the move in an e-mail to The Associated Press. Bullitt took to the local airwaves to confirm his deal.
''It was `Let's get this done, let's move past it, let's get ready for the season,' " he told radio station 1070 The Fan Wednesday afternoon.
Bullitt has been a backup to the oft-injured Bob Sanders since joining the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2007, but is expected to become a full-time starter this season after Sanders' release. Sanders, the 2007 NFL defensive player of the year, signed with San Diego before the NFL lockout began.
Getting both deals completed quickly at least provides some answers for a team scrambling to put its roster together before players report to training camp Sunday.
Still, the biggest concern -- a new long-term contract for four-time MVP Peyton Manning -- has not been resolved . Team owner Jim Irsay has repeatedly promised to make Manning the highest-paid player in league history. Tom Brady currently holds that distinction with an annual average salary of $18 million.
Indy placed the exclusive franchise tag on Manning in February, a move that prevents him from negotiating with other teams and would pay Manning about $23 million this season if he signed the deal. Clearly, the Colts would prefer a long-term deal that lowers Manning's salary cap number for this season and clears enough room to sign more of their own free agents.
''I hope it can get done quickly and I think it should get done quickly,'' Irsay said Monday night. ''Under this system, you can't pay a player $25 million or you won't be able to compete.''
While the Manning negotiations continue, the Colts have been busy signing undrafted rookies and agreeing to deals with Vinatieri and Bullitt.
The 38-year-old Vinatieri is one of just seven players in league history to score 500 or more points with two different teams (Patriots, Colts).
He made the 48-yard field goal that gave New England its first Super Bowl win after the 2001 season He also made the tying kick in regulation and the winner against Oakland in the snow during the 2001 playoffs, a game best remembered as the ''tuck rule'' game. Two years later, Vinatieri made another Super Bowl winning kick against Carolina.
And he played an integral role in the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl run, making five field goals in a 15-6 win at Baltimore, going 3 for 3 against New England in the Colts' AFC title game comeback, and 3 for 4 on a rainy Miami day to help beat Chicago in the title game.
After missing much of the 2009 season following hip surgery, Vinatieri played in all 16 games in 2010 and made 26 of 28 field-goal attempts.
Bullitt came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 200, started 21 games in 2008 and 2009 and had five interceptions in his first three NFL seasons. Last year, after replacing the injured Sanders as the starter again, Bullitt had season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in October.
More roster moves should be coming by Friday night.
Irsay has acknowledged the Colts will have to cut some players, perhaps even a ''well-known'' player. Though he did not identify any individuals as potential cap casualties, speculation has centered on longtime right tackle Ryan Diem. He is scheduled to make $5.4 in base salary this season, the last on his current deal.
''I'm like everybody else, I suspect something is going to happen,'' said Cliff Brady, Diem's agent. ''I know they're trying to get Charlie Johnson done.''
Johnson has been the starting left tackle the last two seasons in Indy and is an unrestricted free agent.
Indy used its first two draft picks in an obvious attempt to upgrade the offensive line. But it's unlikely the Colts want two rookie linemen protecting their high-priced franchise quarterback, who is still rehabbing from offsesason neck surgery.
Another possible cap cut could be cornerback Kelvin Hayden, whose base salary this season is expected to be nearly $9 million. It was Hayden who picked off the pass against Chicago and returned it for a touchdown to seal the Colts' Super Bowl win.
''We are talking to some of our own guys,'' general manager Chris Polian said Tuesday. ''We will not have the ability to retain all of our free agents. We will try to retain as many as we can, but I would not expect that to be 100 percent across the board.''