The Many Ways the Chicago Bears Can Find a Serviceable Kicker

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The Many Ways the Chicago Bears Can Find a Serviceable Kicker

Chicago Bears

After reportedly deciding to release Cody Parkey at the start of the NFL’s new year, the Chicago Bears are (unofficially) officially in search of a new kicker.

How they go about it, though, depends. GM Ryan Pace could (1) dive into free agency when it opens up in March, (2) wait until the late rounds of the draft, or (3) scoop up an undrafted free agent at any point after the draft’s final pick. Let’s explore some of those options right now.

“The Chicago Bears have signed _______ to a free agent deal.”

The list of free agent kickers is intriguing at the top, but can get uninteresting rather quickly. And given the Bears tight salary cap picture, that could be an issue.

In any case, there’s been a fair amount of ink spilled on Robbie Gould and a potential return to Chicago, but he isn’t the only top-tier kicker available. Stephen Gostkowski is the type of kicker who could interest the Bears if the Patriots allow him to hit unrestricted free agency or if they place a transition tag on him.

Jason Myers is on a tier below Gould and Gostkowski, but is coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Jets in which he made 91.7 percent of his kicks, including six of seven attempts from 50+ yards. Metlife Stadium isn’t exactly the easiest place to kick, and Myers was successful on 17 of 19 (89.5%) kicks on his home turf (including 10 of 11 tries in December). Those are encouraging numbers if you’re looking for someone who could kick in Chicago. Note: Myers wasn’t as good in Jacksonville as he was in New York, but it’s equally possible he’s just on a bit of an up-swing.

If the Bears are looking for a short-term solution in the form of an experienced kicker, then perhaps the likes of Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson and Sebastian Janikowski might be in their wheelhouse. We discussed Bryant as a possible fit after he was released by the Falcons earlier in the month. For what it’s worth, he could be signed by the Bears (or any team for that matter) before free agency opens up. That might be worth keeping an eye on, even if he turns 44 in May.

Speaking of 44-year-olds, Dawson had a Pro Bowl season under Bears Special Teams Coach Chris Tabor while with the Browns in 2012. HOWEVER, that was seven seasons ago and Dawson’s success rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons. It bottomed out at 62.5 percent with the Cardinals last season. Maybe he is a camp-competition leg, but isn’t the reliable kicker he once was earlier in his career.

Janikowski is a big name with a big leg, but will be kicking in his age 41 season in 2019.

After sorting through the guys at the top and those who come with age-related risks, it feels like the other free agent options come with unavoidable red flags. Among the kickers in that group are Dan Bailey, Kai Forbath, and a pair of ex-Bears – Cairo Santos and Mike Nugent.

“The Chicago Bears select…”

If the 1985 Bears can win a Super Bowl with a rookie kicker, why can’t the 2019 version do the same? It’s not like it’s totally unheard of in these parts. Kevin Butler was a fourth-round pick in 1985 and he went on to become a Super Bowl champion and the team’s all-time leading scorer until Robbie Gould (you might’ve heard of him) knocked Butler off his perch.

Then again, the Bears have fewer (and fewer higher) picks than usual thanks to some recent trades, and they might want to use what precious picks they do have elsewhere. Not unlike the salary cap limitations, that’s something to keep in mind.

Cole Tracy (LSU), Austin Seibert (Oklahoma), and Matt Gay (Utah) were the only kickers to earn invites to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. It’s possible that a strong showing by one of these college standouts could lead to a team like the Bears latching on to a kicker in the draft.

According to WalterFootball.com’s kicker rankings, Tracy and Gay are projected to be drafted in Rounds 5-7, while Seibert could be a seventh-round guy or land somewhere as a priority undrafted free agent. Which leads us to …

The Potential UDFA Market

Even if Tracy, Seibert, or Gay show out at the Combine, there is no guarantee they will be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. That would put them at the mercy of the undrafted free agent market, which I suppose could ultimately be beneficial, because then they could have some say in their destination.

Beyond the top three, here are some kickers who could be of interest as possible undrafted free agents (in alphabetical order):

  • Roldan Alcobendas, Eastern Washington
  • John Baron II, San Diego State
  • Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin
  • Chase McLaughlin, Illinois
  • Chase Vinatieri, South Dakota State (Vinatieri isn’t draft-eligble until next year. Darn!)
  • Justin Yoon, Notre Dame

The Combo Plan

In his season-ending press conference, Pace told the media he wanted to create a kicking competition. And if the top names in free agency are off the board, that would leave the Bears doing just that this summer. They already signed Redford Jones to a reserve/future deal, which – in some way – makes him the incumbent in this race. Weird.

Chicago attacking their kicking problems by navigating the many avenues in which to find a kicker is the biggest offseason storyline for the Bears and could arguably the most important thing to shake out in the NFC North. Whiffing on this again could set the Bears back and change the dynamics of the division, and possibly elsewhere. No pressure, guys.

Michael Cerami contributed to this post. 



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.