The Patriots designated Adam Vinatieri as a non-exclusive franchise player yesterday, guaranteeing the two-time Pro Bowl placekicker a salary of just over $2.5 million for the 2005 season.
The move marks the second time the team has placed the franchise tag on Vinatieri, who originally signed with New England as an undrafted free agent in 1996. In 2002, Vinatieri became the first Patriot to be franchised, before agreeing to a three-year extension.
A source familiar with the current negotiations said the two sides are working on a multiyear deal, which has to be signed before a March 16 deadline; otherwise, he could play next season under a one-year contract valued at 120 percent of his 2004 salary because he was the highest-paid player at his position.
The non-exclusive designation means Vinatieri could negotiate with other teams if he doesn't reach a long-term deal with the Patriots. In that unlikely scenario, New England would be able to match any offer. Should they choose to not match, they would receive two first-round draft picks from the team that signs him.
Efforts to reach Vinatieri were unsuccessful.
Vinatieri, 32, led the NFL in scoring with 141 points last season, and he is one of only two kickers in NFL history (with Denver's Jason Elam) to score more than 100 points in each of his first nine seasons.
Vinatieri is second on the Patriots career scoring chart with 1,058 points, only 72 behind Gino Cappelletti's franchise record of 1,130.