Let’s Browse Through 15 Kicking Options the Bears Could (And Should) Still Be Monitoring
Even after knocking off Elliott Fry in their head-to-head battle for place-kicking supremacy, Eddy Piñeiro still has a lot of work to do if he wants the gig to be his when the regular season begins. And since Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy came off as noncommittal about Piñeiro being the guy for Week 1, perhaps it is a good time to take a dive into the other options the team could look into between now and the season opener.
Joey Slye and Graham Gano, Panthers
After going 3-for-3 in his preseason debut against the Bears at Soldier Field, Slye made both of his kicks in preseason Week 2. Slye is now 5-for-5, but that he conquered the Bears’ home turf and made a kick from long distance (that 50+ yarder still bangs) that could give him an edge if he becomes available. Then again, Slye can kick himself onto Carolina’s Week 1 roster. If that’s the case, then Gano could be worth a look.
The Panthers are taking it easy with Gano, who is resting a sore leg. Gano has made 85.5 percent of his kicks during his seven-year stint in Carolina. What might be most impressive is the 93.5 percent success rate over the last two seasons. If Gano becomes available, his history of success suggests he will be worth targeting (if he’s healthy).
Austin Seibert and Greg Joseph, Browns
Joseph came out of nowhere last year to knock in 85 percent of his field goals with the Browns, which should have given him a leg up on the competition. HOWEVER, Cleveland drafted Oklahoma standout Austin Seibert in the fifth round to spice things up in camp. The Bears should know Seibert well having worked him out during the pre-draft process, and all the information they collected on him is good to have in case he becomes available.
Then again, this tweet gives me a ton of pause:
#Browns Joseph makes a 44 yarder in team and Seibert wide on a 40. Both went 4/6 in FG drills. Can’t see any way Seibert wins this job and both are on shaky ground
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 19, 2019
Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright, Steelers
Boswell was a Pro Bowler two seasons ago and nailed 89.5 percent of his kicks from 2015-17. Unfortunately, a horrific 2018 in which he made just 65 percent of his kicks can’t be ignored. Should Boswell become available, his experience as a professional with a winning organization would otherwise make him an attractive candidate if not for that yucky 65 percent success rate in 2018.
Between Boswell’s rough 2018 and Wright hitting on both of his kicks from beyond 40 yards out, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pittsburgh rolled the dice on the younger, but unproven kicker.
Chase McLaughlin and Stephen Hauschka, Bills
Hauschka seems to be entrenched as the Bills’ kicker, which would leave McLaughlin using his time in Buffalo to audition for a job elsewhere. Perhaps that gig could be in Chicago, where McLaughlin successfully navigated Soldier Field while in college as a member of the Fighting Illini. If that type of experience is deemed to be valuable, then the Bears should kick the tires on the 2018 Big Ten Kicker of the Year.
But if McLaughlin beats the odds and takes over at Buffalo’s top kicker, that would leave Hauschka, who nailed 88.7 percent of his kicks from 2011-17, as a top free agent option who has real, tangible NFL kicking experience.
Cole Hedlund, Colts
We added Hedlund to our watch list last week after he went 3-for-3 in the Colts’ preseason opener. And why not? Hedlund isn’t beating out Adam Vinatieri for that job. Hedlund missed a 51-yarder in preseason Week 2, but it shouldn’t have removed him from consideration elsewhere. The Bears will get a good look at Hedlund on Saturday when they play the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sam Ficken and Mason Crosby, Packers
Keeping tabs on the Packers is always important, but I never thought I would closely monitor their kicking situation. Crosby’s peak years came from 2014-16, when he made 85.9 percent of his field goals and missed just five extra points. But he has made just 80 percent of his kicks the last two seasons, which is a cause for concern. So much so, the Packers brought in Ficken to compete with Crosby and were rumored to be interested in Kaare Vedvik before he was traded to the Vikings.
Ficken made his only field goal attempt of the preseason last week and knocked in two PATs in his preseason debut. He also has three touchbacks to his name, which is something the Bears should be looking for from their next kicker. In four regular season games with the Rams in 2017 and 2018, Ficken made just 3 of 6 field goals and 14 of 15 extra-points. But at least he has professional experience going him.
Dan Bailey, Vikings
Things are awkward in Minnesota, where Bailey re-signed to be part of the kicking competition … only to be bumped by Vedvik. Bailey was a great kicker for the Cowboys, making 88.2 percent of his field goals, but has made just 75 percent of his kicks over the last two years. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Bailey could be a short-term option should the Vikings allow him to walk away on cut day. However, recent history hints at bringing in Bailey as being a roll of the dice right now.
Tristan Vizcaino, Bengals
Knocking a 57-yard boot is going to open eyes:
Vizcaino signed with the Bengals during the offseason and is battling Randy Bullock for a job. Vizcaino is 2-for-3 this preseason, w with his miss coming from 46 yards out. The powerful boot above is impressive, but his 12-for-20 showing in college at Washington gives me pause.
Cairo Santos, Buccaneers
Santos’ time with the Bears was cut short because of a groin injury, but Matt Nagy knows him well from their time in Kansas City and Ryan Pace knows him from his brief stint in Chicago. The Bucs seem set on going into Week 1 with Matt Gay as their guy, which would send Santos to the open market. Santos has an 83 percent success rate in regular season games and is a perfect 6-for-6 in the postseason. If the Bears believe in second chances, perhaps Santos is their guy.
Matt Bryant, Free agent
Bryant hasn’t garnered much attention in free agency despite being the most accomplished kicker on the market. When the Falcons cut him in February, we wondered if he could be an answer to the Bears’ kicking problems. And in March, we profiled the 44-year-old as a potential free agent target. It’s August and Bryant still isn’t on a team. What gives?