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Explaining the Indianapolis Colts’ decision to break the bank for kicker Matt Gay

NFL free agency is underway and surprisingly the Indianapolis Colts were active during its first day. This alone is noteworthy because, in the past, general manager Chris Ballard has typically not been very active this early. His belief is not to pay B players A money, which is sound logic.

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts re-signed linebacker, E.J. Speed. Then late last night they made a big money signing by agreeing to terms with former Los Angeles Rams kicker Matt Gay. It is the biggest deal ever for a kicker in free agency. Also, it’s the most money for a kicker over three years.

Also Read: Las Vegas Raiders land top wide receiver in NFL free agency for $33 million

This signing is already being received by many Colts fans with a lot of snark, frustration, and funny memes. It’s certainly understandable why the fans feel this way. The team has many needs; offensive guard, pass rusher, wide receiver, cornerback, and others. Not to mention that the kicker position is not one of high importance; until a game-winning kick is needed. 

But instead of adding to the negative discourse, let’s take a look at why the Indianapolis Colts gave Matt Gay a record-breaking contract this week.

Meeting the new guy, Matt Gay

indianapolis colts
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The team’s newest kicker will turn 29 this month. He is from the state of Utah where he played high school football at Orem. Some other notable NFL alumni from the school are tight end Chad Lewis who played in the NFL from 1997-2005 and center Orrin Olsen who only played a season with Kansas City in 1976. 

Gay attended the University of Utah where he played for two seasons, 2017-2018. The team went 16-11 overall in those two years, 9-9 in the Pac-12, and 1-1 in their two bowl games. While at Utah he made 56 field goals, was good on 86.2% of his attempts, and was perfect on extra points, 85/85. 

In the 2019 NFL draft, Tampa Bay selected him in the fifth round. He only played one season for them before being released and signing with the LA Rams where he won a Super Bowl. Now he’s taking his talents to the midwest.

Indianapolis Colts get a more accurate kicker than Adam Vinatieri

The gold standard of kicking in the NFL is future Hall of Famer and former Indianapolis Colt Adam Vinatieri. He is the league leader for most field goals made all time — with 599 — and the next closest is Morten Anderson (565). The high among active kickers is Robbie Gould with 447. However, Vinatieri’s career accuracy is only 83.7% which is good enough for 31st all-time.

For some comparison of other Indianapolis Colts kickers, Mike Vanderjagt is seventh all-time at 86.4% and the current Colts kicker, Chase McLaughlin is fifth all-time at 87.8%. With Gay’s current pace, making an average of 25 field goals a season, he is unlikely to surpass Vinatieri on the all-time list. Regardless, that is not something that Colts fans need to concern themselves with right now. 

Matt Gay finally solves a major problem area

indianapolis colts
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

For now, the Indianapolis Colts are finally solving the problem that is their placekicker spot. Since Vinatieri’s last season in 2019, where he was dealing with an injury and made a career-worst 68% of his kicks, the Colts have been looking for a replacement.

They tried Rodrigo Blankenship for two seasons and he made 45 field goals, good for 83.3%. Unfortunately, he only converted 69% of his field goals from 40 yards or more. 

This led to the team releasing him last season and bringing in journeyman Chase McLaughlin. In his four-year career, he’s been on six different teams, twice with Indianapolis. Perhaps uncoincidentally, he enjoyed the best success of his career last season kicking indoors where he made 35 field goals good for 83.3%. Unfortunately, this appears to be more of an outlier as he’s a career 78.8% on field goals.

Over the last four years, the Indianapolis Colts and their fans have had to endure a lot of anxiety and frustration over their kickers not being very good. With the signing of Matt Gay, this problem should no longer be an issue. While it’s easy to laugh at and make fun of the contract he’s received, one thing all Colts fans have wanted from Ballard is to spend money on big-name players in free agency and that’s exactly what he did. It just happens to be a placekicker instead of a star wide receiver.

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