The Buffalo Bills prevented one player from reaching the free agent market Wednesday by signing place-kicker Rian Lindell to a new contract.
The Bills did not release the terms of the contract, but it is believed to be a five-year deal worth close to $10 million.
Lindell could have become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and probably would have received interest from a number of teams. But he didn't want to venture into the uncertain open market. Staying in Buffalo was his first priority. He was pleased the team acted swiftly.
"The trouble with kicking is it's not necessarily a 32-team league," Lindell said. "I'm not going to go to Indianapolis with [Adam] Vinatieri signed. I'm not going to Minnesota with Ryan Longwell. You kind of take your chances when you go out in free agency, and this is where I wanted to be anyway. The numbers worked out and it was a pretty easy decision."
It was an easy decision for the Bills, too, given Lindell's production. Since joining the Bills in 2003, Lindell has brought stability to a position that had been lacking in Buffalo since the departure of Steve Christie in 2001.
Lindell, 29, is coming off a game in which he tied a career high with five field goals in five attempts during a 30-29 loss to Tennessee last Sunday. That made him 23 for 25 this season, a 92-percent conversion rate that is a franchise best for a single season.
Lindell already is the most accurate kicker in Bills' history, making 76 of 88 field goal attempts (86.3 percent). He has improved his accuracy from long distance the last two years. He is 20 for 25 on field goals of 40 yards or more since last season, including 5 for 5 beyond 50 yards. This year, he is 10 for 12 on field goals beyond 40 yards with a pair of 53-yarders.
Lindell is also 32 for 32 on extra points this year, extending his streak to 223 straight games since beginning his NFL career with Seattle in 2000. That is the second longest streak by a player from the start of a career in NFL history, just 11 behind Tommy Davis.
This is the third straight season that Lindell has topped 100 points (101).
The Bills have had the best special teams in the NFL over the past two seasons, and with Lindell, Pro Bowl punter Brian Moorman and long snapper Mike Schneck all signed to long-term contracts, the kicking game should be solid for years to come.
"It's definitely important," said coach Dick Jauron. "We have a real nice combination with our three specialists. They work so well together. They are very professional, they help each other out and they understand what they are trying to do and how to do it. Kind of along the lines of a quarterback, they're aware of what they've got to deal with here. That's a big deal for us because if you don't have that it can set you back."
Lindell said Moorman, Schneck, special teams coach Bobby April and Jauron were the biggest reasons he wanted to stay with the Bills. And unlike most opposing kickers, Lindell doesn't mind playing in the blustery conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
He added that there is one more benefit to playing in Buffalo.
"There's no traffic," he said. "There's something to be said about that."
The Bills are remarkably healthy going into Sunday's regular-season finale at Baltimore.
Fullback Daimon Shelton is the only player on the injury report. He suffered a head injury two weeks ago that caused him to miss last Sunday's game against Tennessee.
Jauron said defensive end Ryan Denney was excused from practice Wednesday for personal reasons.
The Ravens have four starters on the injury report. Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden missed practice Wednesday and is doubtful with a hyperextended toe. He didn't play last Sunday at Pittsburgh. Second-year pro and Syracuse product Adam Terry is expected to start again for Ogden.
Left guard Jason Brown and linebackers Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas didn't practice either and are questionable with ankle injuries.
Brown has started the last 11 games since Edwin Mulitalo was shelved for the year with a torn triceps muscle. Scott and Thomas have been key components on the NFL's top-ranked defense, combining for 20.5 sacks and three interceptions.