If the Chicago Bears want to cement their status as contenders, they’ll need to round out the roster with a professional kicker who can put a pigskin between the uprights with the game on the line. And as fate would have it, Robbie Gould – the team’s all-time leading scorer – is set to be a free agent.
But is Chicago as attractive of an option to Gould as Gould is to Chicago and its championship starved fans? Perhaps family ties can pull Gould back into the mix.
The Athletic’s Dan Pompei shares some anecdotes from a lengthy conversation he had with Gould during the star kicker’s drive from the Chicagoland area to Atlanta where he will take part in Super Bowl LIII festivities – on top of everything he is on the field, Gould is also one of the 32 finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and could be be given the award Saturday at the NFL Honors show.
Among the anecdotes that’ll pull right at your heartstrings is Gould’s obvious love affair with Chicago: “You can travel all over the place and find great places to live. But there is something to Chicago,” Gould said. “There are so many aspects of the city of Chicago that we’ve come to love. At the end of the day this is home for me.”
Since leaving Chicago, Gould’s homes have been a “corporate apartment complex” in close proximity to the Giants’ MetLife Stadium (when he played for New York), a Bay Area apartment (during his first year with the 49ers), and the Santa Clara Mariott (in Year 2).
Meanwhile, his wife and three children have stayed in the Chicagoland area the entire time. With that in mind, I can see why Gould has identified not being there for his family as the most difficult part about being on the go. And while things are still good on the home front, this is now the second time this offseason in which Gould has referenced how much he values his family connection (doing so earlier while appearing on a podcast with ex-teammate Earl Bennett).
From a purely football perspective, Gould is a perfect fit. Since being cut by the Bears before the 2016 season, Gould has made 82 of 85 kicks. I’ve never been an A+ math student, but connecting at a 95.6 percent clip seems pretty good.
Of course, Gould’s return isn’t written in stone. The 49ers could tear up the potential Hollywood ending by applying the franchise tag on Gould, which would secure the kicker’s services for an estimated $4.9 million in 2019. San Francisco is projected to have about $62 million in cap space, so a tag wouldn’t be prohibitive and wouldn’t figure to impact the team’s budget. Though the tag is rarely used on kickers, the Niners using it to keep Gould is not out of the realm of possibilities.
But still … there’s a growing sense that a Gould return to Chicago could be on the horizon if he has a say in the matter. And while there will be available options on the market who will figure to provide projected upgrades from Cody Parkey, none will be as alluring as Gould.
So what does Gould say to the people he sees who want him back? “One day, I’ll retire as a Bear.”
A ceremonial retirement as a Bear like the one for Devin Hester and Matt Forte last year would be a nice touch, no doubt. But in an ideal world, Gould’s retirement party in Chicago would come after a second successful stint with the team. Bonus points if he can help make good on the one thing he didn’t accomplish as a member of the Bears.