Star kicker Adam Vinatieri, one of the NFL's premier placement specialists and a man whose field goals provided the winning points in two of the New England Patriots three Super Bowl victories, will return to the team for at least one more season.
Designated two months ago as the Patriots' franchise player, Vinatieri has signed the one-year qualifying offer, worth $2.51 million. The deal, as stipulated by franchise rules, represents a 20 percent increase for Vinatieri over 2004.
The two sides discussed a long-term contract prior to a mid-March deadline, and likely will resume those talks after July 15. If Vinatieri were to sign a multi-year contract before July 15, the Patriots would lose the "franchise" tag for the length of that deal. Signing him to a long-term contract later in the summer would permit New England to recoup the franchise marker for future use.
Vinatieri, 32, was also a franchise-designated player for New England before signing his most recent contract with the club. He will almost certainly seek a deal making him the NFL's highest paid kicker when negotiations resume.
The nine-year veteran is coming off his most prolific season, having scored a career-best 141 points in 2004, while converting 31 of 33 field goal attempts. His conversion rate of 93.9 percent was the NFL's best. The performance earned Vinatieri a second trip to the Pro Bowl game.
The most accurate kicker in franchise history, Vinatieri also is among the top-10 kickers in NFL history in terms of field goal conversion rate. He has converted 243 of 296 field goal tries, for an 82.1 percent success rate. Vinatiero has also made 327 of 333 extra point tries and has 1,056 career points.
A former South Dakota State star, originally signed by New England as an undrafted college free agent in 1996, Vinatieri has scored 100 or more points in each of his NFL seasons. He has 120 or more points three times.
Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXXVI provided the winning points in the Pats' victory over St. Louis. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, he hit a 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to lift New England over Carolina.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.