By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Pat McAfee couldn't imagine himself playing anywhere in the NFL other than Indianapolis.
For the next five years, at least, he won't have to.
The veteran punter agreed to a five-year deal with the Colts on Friday, less than 24 hours before other teams officially could begin making offers for his services. It was not a process McAfee was looking forward to, and he was even considering options outside of football if a deal could not be reached in Indy.
"I didn't want to hit free agency, not one bit," he said during a conference call from Los Angeles, where he was finishing up a week-long run on the NFL Network. "Now, granted, would I have retired? First of all, would my parents or the people around me let me retire? I don't know.
"But I consider myself a really loyal person. Every night when I go to lay my head down, I couldn't even imagine being in another city or playing for another team or representing another fan base. I didn't want to even think about it. I don't know what I would have done had free agency hit, but I was trying to make sure I was prepared for anything."
McAfee had been assured by his agent that negotiations were going well, but he seemed surprised last year's talks didn't result in a long-term deal. The punter played the 2013 season under the franchise tag and was scheduled to become a free agent Tuesday.
Instead, he'll return to work with the only NFL franchise he's ever known after agreeing to a deal reportedly worth $14 million through 2018. He cried when he was informed of the deal and later broke into a wide smile when he announced the news live on "NFL AM."
"I'm definitely excited for this payday I'm getting," McAfee said. "Obviously, it's awesome. I'm overly compensated. My family is going to be happy, too. That is kind of what my goal my entire life has been, to be successful financially and comfortably and help my parents be comfortable financially. This is definitely going to help."
McAfee stressed money was not the main factor in negotiations.
Since 2009, he has handled punts and kickoffs for the Colts, and he's made no secret of his desire to add field goals and extra points to his duties. He made 73.4 percent of his field goal attempts during his college career at West Virginia and has studied for the past five years under one of the best kickers in NFL history — Adam Vinatieri, who also is scheduled to become a free agent Tuesday.
So he asked for assurances he'll have a chance to compete for the job whenever Vinatieri moves on.
"It was definitely brought up (during negotiations for the new contract), and that was kind of the thing I think that was most talked about," McAfee said. "Who knows what's going to happen with Vinatieri? If he gets re-signed, if he wants to get re-signed, however long he wants to play, I just wanted to know whenever that guy is done, whenever that Hall-of-Fame career is over, that I just want a fair shake in kicking as well."
For now, he's more than happy just to continue pulling on a Colts uniform.
McAfee has made Indianapolis his year-round home, and he believes a team that has made back-to-back playoff appearances with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league will be an attractive draw for free agents.
The Colts started the offseason with nearly $41 million in salary cap space and are expected to be a major player when the market opens next week. Having Andrew Luck under center can't hurt the team's chances.
"First of all, winning makes you an attractive team," McAfee said. "But I think the chance to hitch your wagon to an up-and-coming hopefully Hall of Fame quarterback, which he should be, I think that's a big deal for a lot of the older guys that are looking for a ring or maybe for the younger guys that are trying to jumpstart their career.
"I think Indianapolis is becoming a very, very promising looking destination for a lot of people who want to win and hitch their wagon to a player who's going to be great for a very long time."