The move signals the end of Vinatieri’s 24th season in the NFL — and potentially his career.
Vinatieri, 46, was inactive for Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has struggled throughout the season, making just 17 of 25 field goal attempts and 22 of 28 extra points.
The Colts added insurance at the kicking position Wednesday when they claimed Chase McLaughlin, who made 2 of 3 field goals and all three of his PATs on Sunday.
Vinatieri routinely said his knee wasn’t a problem, but it was something caused him to go from being one of the most reliable kickers in league history to being one of the weakest links on the Indianapolis roster this season.
The Colts, despite working out 11 kickers at two different times this season, stuck with Vinatieri even though he made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts this season. Two of Vinatieri’s misses — at the Chargers and at Pittsburgh — cost the Colts games.
If this season is Vinatieri’s last, he’ll finish his career as the NFL’s leading career scorer with 2,671 points and 29 game-winning kicks. Three of Vinatieri’s most memorable winning kicks occurred when he was with the New England Patriots from 1996 to 2005. He made a game winner in blizzard-like conditions against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs and winning kicks in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII.
ESPN’s Mike Wells contributed to this report.