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Kraft feels impact of Vinatieri's loss

The young offseason has not been kind thus far to the New England Patriots. After losing key figures in their past success such as David Givens and Willie McGinest earlier, the team received perhaps its biggest blow yesterday when news of Adam Vinatieri's free agent departure was revealed.

Vinatieri agreed in principle to a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Terms have not been made public but various published reports indicate he will receive a $3.5 million signing bonus and an average of $2.5 million annually over the first three years.

Certainly losing players like McGinest, who was the first draft pick of the Kraft ownership back in 1994, has been difficult to swallow. But losing Vinatieri, considered by most as the game's premier clutch kicker, has left a mark on owner Robert Kraft.

"I left a message with Adam just to thank him for all of his contributions during the past 10 years with the New England Patriots," Kraft said. "I was proud of the way he represented the franchise, both on and off the field. He is a true champion. Adam will always be remembered for his many game-winning kicks and overall accomplishments as a Patriot. He holds a special place in the hearts of all of us who are Patriots fans."

Among those kicks was a pair of Super Bowl winners as well as his memorable 45-yarder through the snowflakes to send the playoff game against Oakland in the Snow Bowl to overtime back in January of 2002. No kicker in NFL history has two Super Bowl game-winners to his credit, and Vinatieri's reputation with the game on the line is unmatched.

Vinatieri signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent back in 1996. He booted 19 game-winners during his 10 years in New England and leaves as the seventh-most accurate kicker in NFL history having made 263-of-321 attempts (82 percent).

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