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 last Wednesday when they claimed Chase McLaughlin, who made 2-of-3 field goals and all three of his PAT’s on Sunday.
Vinatieri routinely said his knee wasn’t a problem, but 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 Colts 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 percent of his field goal attempts this season. Two of Vinatieri’s misses — at the Chargers and Pittsburgh — cost the Colts games.
If this season is Vinatieri’s last, he’ll finish his career as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,671 points and 29-game winning kicks. Three of Vinatieri’s most memorable game-winning kicks occurred when he was with the New England Patriots from 1996-2005. He made a game winner in blizzard-like conditions against Oakland in the 2001 playoffs and winning kicks in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVII.
ESPN’s Mike Wells contributed to this report.