Lost in the madness of Kirk Cousins’ stumble to the finish line in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings is that kicker Dan Bailey – who was brought in to rid the team of its kicking woes – stunk up the joint.
Indeed, last season Bailey missed seven field goals and an extra point, which adds up to nine total misses in 14 games with the team. After racking up an 89.5 percent success rate on field goals in 96 games from 2011-16, Bailey’s field goal percentage has dropped to 75 percent in his last 26 games over the past two seasons. See! The Chicago Bears aren’t the only team in the NFC North in search of kicking help.
With that in mind, Connor Orr of SI.com’s The MMQB sees the long-time division rivals as a fit for free agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski. That is, of course, if Gostkowski doesn’t return to the New England Patriots for another season.
As we touched upon in our “Eyeing Potential Bears Free Agent Targets” post focused on Gostkowski, there’s a lot to like about the free agent kicker. He is a championship-caliber leg, who’s a proven performer in the postseason (16/16 all-time in AFC Championship Games, 7-for-8 on Super Bowl Sundays) and whose presence would allow Bears fans to breathe a little easier when the game is on the line. Even though Gostkowski had a “down” year by his standards in 2018, his overall body of work is still a net positive and his recent history before last season suggests his struggles were likely just a blip.
Gostkowski would bring a significant upgrade to either the Bears or Vikings kicking situations, but cash considerations could keep both teams on the sidelines in this race. OverTheCap.com’s calculations have the Bears with just $17,469,341 million in available cap space. That’s not much, but it’s a far better situation than the Vikings, who project to have just $4,364,097. Both teams have needs elsewhere on the field too, and could turn to a cheaper free agent alternative or attempt to unearth the next big thing.
But here’s the thing: why seek out an unproven alternative when a quality kicker is available for just money? Sure, paying another kicker isn’t something Bears GM Ryan Pace wants to do after being burned by the Cody Parkey experience. HOWEVER, the peace of mind that comes with not having to deal with the traveling circus of available place-kickers could be valuable for a front office that could better use its time not worrying about such a matter. There is something to be said about the value of stability at the kicker position, as it’s one of those things you don’t know how great it is until it’s gone.
To be clear, Gostkowski isn’t the only free agent kicker about to hit the market. But he is the best of the bunch. If the Bears could add him to their contending roster and keep him away from a division rival, it would get the new league year started on the right foot.