The Bears Signed a Punter and Long-Snapper Because Special Teamers Matter, Too

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The Bears Signed a Punter and Long-Snapper Because Special Teamers Matter, Too

Chicago Bears

Improvements throughout the Chicago Bears’ special teams units over the last four yers have been a pleasant surprise.

But the special teams coordinator who was calling the shots is gone. And with the hiring of Richard Hightower to run the show, it is natural that a new coach might want to shake things up. So while the Bears’ two new additions aren’t guaranteed spots with the squad when the regular season rolls around, their additions are still noteworthy:

The team announced the signings of long-snapper Beau Brinkley and punter Ryan Winslow on Wednesday.

Winslow’s professional career began with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2018. However, his time with the team wasn’t lengthy. Winslow couldn’t win a summertime camp competition and has been bouncing around the league since. There have been stops in Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina, Washington, and San Francisco for Winslow. That last team is an important one to note. Especially when considering that Richard Hightower (the Bears’ new special teams coordinator) was with the 49ers last year. Perhaps he was fond of what he saw from the Pittsburgh product last year. As for Brinkley, he has been making the rounds, too. Brinkley was the Titans long-snapper from 2012-20, but spent time with the Lions, Cardinals, and Chargers practice squads in 2021.

And with that, Chicago now has all three pieces of a functioning place-kicking mechanism under contract. Again, this isn’t to say we’re locking Brinkley or Winslow into roster spots just yet. But it’s nice to have options for the sake of depth and future competition.

I mention options, depth, and potential competition because incumbent punter (Pat O’Donnell) and long-snapper (Patrick Scales) are both free-agents-to-be. And while I suppose both (or either) could return in 2022, there are no guarantees. Not with a new general manager, head coach, and special teams coordinator in charge. Bringing in two new players serves as a reminder that everyone should be keeping their heads on a swivel.

O’Donnell has been in Chicago since 2014, which makes him the longest tenured Bears player. Well, at least until his contract expires when the new league year begins in March. The 30-year-old punter averaged 46.2 yards per punt, which represents a second consecutive year with an improving average and best showing showing since averaging a career-best 47 yards per punt in 2017. However, the 38.6 net average is his worst showing since 2017 (39.7) and marks the second consecutive season in which his net number has taken a dip.

As for Scales, he has been with the Bears since 2015. Finding relevant long-snapper stats isn’t easy, but Scales hasn’t had a jumbled snap since joining Chicago’s football team and that should count for something.

What the Bears do in the special teams area isn’t at top of mind for most fans. But after watching the Niners special teams end the Packers’ championship dreams, we should know better than to discount this group’s importance.

Author: Luis Medina

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