Insider: Why the Colts made Matt Gay the highest paid free agent kicker in NFL history

The Indianapolis Colts signed Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay this offseason.

INDIANAPOLIS — The deal Matt Gay signed, the deal that represents one of the biggest contracts ever handed out to an NFL kicker, is for four years.

But that’s not the way the Colts new kicker is looking at it.

Gay knows he might have just picked his home for a long, long time. When an NFL kicker is as good as Gay has been since he took over in Los Angeles, he doesn’t have to worry about moving around a whole lot.

Adam Vinatieri kicked in Indianapolis for 14 years. Mason Crosby and Justin Tucker have been in Green Bay and Baltimore, respectively, for more than a decade. Younger kickers around Gay’s age, 28, such as Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott, Kansas City’s Harrison Butker and New Orleans’ Wil Lutz, have been entrenched with their teams for half a decade or more.

The Colts are hoping Gay can be that kind of kicker, allowing the franchise to rest easy for the first time since age caught up to Vinatieri, and Indianapolis was willing to pay Gay $22.5 million over four years for peace of mind.

Gay is hoping the city of Indianapolis can give him and his family the same peace of mind.

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“It was my first time really hitting free agency and being able to explore the market,” Gay said. “A few things went into it. Most importantly, for me and my family — my two boys, my wife — this is a place that we can see our family living, and we can see our family being able to settle down here and live here and raise a family here.”

And the money helped.

Raising a family’s easier with $13 million in guaranteed money.

“You want to be able to take care of your family,” Gay said. “I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a factor in the decision, but I think most importantly, I was familiar with the Colts, I love the organization, I loved my time here. Me and my wife felt really good about being able to raise our family here.”

Blessed with the benefit of hindsight, the Colts probably wish they’d never let Gay leave.

The young kicker spent two months on the Indianapolis practice squad in 2020, biding his time and catching his breath after his first chance at a permanent NFL home went awry. Gay, a Lou Groza Award winner in college at Utah, was drafted by Tampa Bay in the fifth round in 2019, and he spent his entire rookie season as a Buccaneer.

But he was inconsistent, making just 77.1% of his field goals and 89.6% of his extra points, and it left the door open. Veteran Ryan Succop arrived the next offseason and took Gay’s job in training camp, a move that freed the young kicker to be Rodrigo Blankenship’s backup in Indianapolis during the first COVID season, a season when just about every team carried an extra kicker on the practice squad in case a positive test caused an emergency right before a game.

The Colts didn’t have much reason, at least not at the time, to pick Gay over Blankenship, who made 19-of-21 field goals and all but two of his extra points before the Rams plucked Gay off the Indianapolis practice squad.

Quietly, though, Gay had developed into a different kind of kicker in his two months as a Colt.

An NFL kicker.

“For the NFL, really for all the positions, but kicking, there’s such a focus and spotlight on you,” Gay said. “My time in Tampa was up and down. I think getting away from that … to know you can do it and then see a couple go through the uprights, that confidence just starts to build and build. I think we see it a lot of times with guys who start out, maybe it’s not a good fit, and then they get to another team, and they take off a little bit.”

Gay took off in a big way in Los Angeles.

Fully confident in himself, Gay made 74-of-80 field goals (92.5%) in 2 1/2 seasons with the Rams, won a Super Bowl ring and established himself as one of the NFL’s most consistent kickers.

“I have nothing but good things to say about the Rams,” Gay said.

Staying there would have been difficult.

Los Angeles has cut costs this offseason, intent on retooling and rebuilding both its roster and its salary-cap situation after going all out to win the Super Bowl.

With that in mind, Gay started searching for a new home, and he found a fit in Indianapolis.

A fit that Gay knows all too well is going to hold contingencies. A kicker only gets to stay in one city for a long time if he makes kicks consistently, a fleeting goal that only a handful of NFL kickers ever accomplish.

“I think the key for me, first and foremost, is knowing that it’s not just consistency with the stats everyone sees on Sundays, it’s the consistency day-in, day-out with my process, with how I take care of my body, my routine,” Gay said. “Then, just consistency off the field, being able to center who I am as a father, as a husband, as a man of God. … know there’s bigger things outside of football, being able to take that away from the pressure of everything else.”

The pressure of living up to this contract he just signed, of kicking well enough to give his family the permanent home they believe they’re getting with this move.

“Everybody likes to settle in roots and wants to stick with a team and be there for a long time,” Gay said. “I can definitely see our family being here for a while. Again, I’m just going to take it one year at a time, one kick at a time. … not look too far into the future, and just kind of stack blocks.”

Make kicks.

If Gay can keep doing that the way he’s been doing it in Los Angeles, his family’s probably not going to have to worry about moving again any time soon.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts K Matt Gay hoping big deal leads to long-term home in Indy