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Patriots pass on franchise tagging Vinatieri

FOXBORO, Mass. (Feb. 24, 2006) -- Adam Vinatieri may get a chance to test free agency after the New England Patriots declined to protect the man who kicked two Super Bowl-winning field goals with the franchise player tag.

The designation would have forced the team to commit to a one-year, $3 million offer to Vinatieri. Without the tag, the team will not be compensated if he signs with someone else.

"It just didn't feel like the right thing to do," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We considered all our options and decided not to tag anybody."

The Patriots still have until March 3 to sign Vinatieri. But negotiations around the league have been held up because the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the teams is set to expire next week, and 2006 salary cap numbers remain unknown.

"I don't think you can do much of anything," Belichick said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I don't know what we're working with (financially). Until that's defined, it seems like an exercise in futility."

A message left for Vinatieri's agent, Jonathan Hurst, was not immediately returned.

Vinatieri, 33, has been named the team's franchise player twice, including last year, when he was paid $2.5 million.

The Patriots have 17 unrestricted free agents, with Vinatieri and receiver David Givens the most notable.

"Every situation is independent," Belichick said. "It takes two parties, or three to a point, to make a deal, and when that happens, we have one, and if it doesn't, we don't."

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