|Thursday, February 21
Updated: February 22, 8:50 AM ET
Vinatieri likely in line for long-term deal
By Len Pasquarelli
Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri, whose 48-yard field goal as time expired provided the winning points for the New England Patriots' first championship, has been designated as the club's "franchise" player, ESPN.com has learned.
Vinatieri becomes the third known player to have the "franchise" designation officially applied, joining Philadelphia middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and Seattle offensive left tackle Walter Jones. The deadline for designating as "franchise" or "transition" free agents is today at 4 p.m. and there will be a few more veterans, notably Indianapolis left tackle Tarik Glenn and Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, added to the list.
The move was confirmed by Vinatieri's agent, Neil Cornrich, and by Patriots sources.
The designation, in essence, means that the Patriots have made Vinatieri a one-year qualifying offer for $1.241 million.
The Patriots last week signed punter Ken Walter, who would have been an unrestricted free agent without a new deal, to a five-year contract worth about $6 million. The team immediately turned its attention to Vinatieri, but it became increasingly obvious a deal could not be quickly struck, especially with the recent spiral in salary levels for kickers.
It is likely the team will eventually sign Vinatieri to a long-term deal. Clubs have until March 15 to sign "franchise" players and then there is a negotiating moratorium until mid-July.
Vinatieri, 29, is a six-year veteran who has connected on 160 of 199 field goal attempts and also on 208 of 209 extra points. In 2001, he converted 24 of 30 field goal tries and all but one of his 42 extra points. The former South Dakota State star is regarded as one of the best clutch kickers in the NFL.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.