GM Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears are about to embark on a new sort of challenge: rounding out a championship-caliber roster that doesn’t have many glaring needs. But in doing so, they must navigate a tight salary cap situation.
So let’s take a look at some of the more promising available players, to see if there might be a fit with the reigning NFC North champs.
Previous offseason targets: None
Player, Age (in 2019), Position
Matt Bryant, 44, kicker
Season stats: 13 games, 95.2 FG% (20/21), 94.3 PAT% (33/35)
If you’re looking for accuracy in a kicker, then look no further than Bryant. In his age 43 season, Bryant missed a grand total of … three kicks (one field goal, two extra-points).
And it’s not as if he was loading up on chip-shots, either. Bryant went 4-for-5 from 50+ yards and made a season-long 57-yard attempt. Maybe the fact that his lone miss was a 53-yarder on the road in Green Bay on December 9 and one of his two PAT misfires came in that same game. I get it, but we probably shouldn’t let that completely cloud our judgment. Remember, even the best of the best miss from time-to-time.
Career Stats: 235 games, 86.2 FG% (388/450), 98.8 PAT% (553/560)
Bryant had a stellar season with the Falcons in 2018, which made it that much more surprising when Atlanta released him in early February and ended his 10-year tenure with the team. During his decade-long run with the Falcons, Bryant made 88.7 percent of his kicks and 99.2 percent of his point-after tries. Bryant was also money in the postseason, making all 12 of his field goal attempts and knocking through 25 of 26 PATs. Cha-ching!
Admittedly, it appeared as if Bryant was showing signs of slowing down in 2015. That season, Bryant was limited to 11 games and connected on just 77.8 percent of his field goals. But since then, he’s hit on 90.7% of his kicks and 97.6% of the extra points he attempted. That’s what a real bounce-back looks like from a pro’s pro at the place-kicker position.
In The End …
Because Bryant was released in February, he’s eligible to sign with a team before the NFL’s new year begins on March 13. That means the Bears could conceivably take care of their kicking problems sooner than previously expected. Oh, if it were only that easy.
Bryant turns 44 in May, so you would think a one-year deal would be in play if the Bears were to approach him to fill their kicker position. But Bryant has said he wants to kick beyond 2019, so it’s possible a multi-year deal is what he is looking for from his next team. Perhaps a one or two-year deal with an option is where two sides could meet in the middle? Bryant missed three games due to a hamstring injury, but was accurate as heck and has been nails from long distance.
Kicking in Chicago might not be high on Bryant’s wish list, but he is 8-for-8 on field goals and 9-for-9 in PAT attempts in four games kicking at Soldier Field. Not bad! A kicker with Bryant’s pedigree shouldn’t be ruled out – even one at an advanced age.