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Chicago Bears 2011 Free Agency: Brad Maynard

There has been a man who wears #4. This man has long been a thorn in the paw of Bears fans, consistently dashing their dreams, and providing fuel for the fire that burns against the Bears' two biggest rivals.

Then there's the other #4, beloved by Bears fans. That man is Brad Maynard, and he's been the punter for a decade. Not only the punter, he's also been the holder who's been with Robbie Gould as Gould has shot to status as one of the best kickers in the whole league.

Maynard's contract is up, and his production has been down a bit. Brace yourself, Bears fans,  he might not be coming back.

The uncertainty appears to be getting to Maynard, though he won't admit it. Telling the Trib shortly after the McGee signing:

"I don't know what (McGee's signing) means right now because I have not spoken to the Bears," Maynard said Sunday. "And I'm not too concerned about it. I know things will take care of themselves in the end."

-Familiar with system
-Can be deadly accurate
-Crucial part of FG unit (Laces out!)

-Losing Leg Strength
-Recent surgeries

Brad is a valued member of the team, but he is by no means in a position that is irreplaceable. He has been a rock at the Punter position over the last decade, but had the league-worst average per punt this season. Couple that with 29th ranked net average, and it's easy to see what could give the Bears concerned. With the continued excellence of the special teams gunners, it's crucial to get that distance (and loft) into those kicks, to put the gunners into the position to make the big plays, as well as neutralize the other teams return unit.

The Bears recently signed P Richmond McGee to a two-year contract which could likely mean the end of Maynard's tenure. McGee has been in camp several times, usually to allow Brad some rest. This year could be different, though. Expect Maynard to be in camp, but don't consider the job his straight away. He'll have the edge, but if his performance is down, we could be seeing a new punter in 2011.

John 'Moon' Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin) weighed in, as well. He thinks alike on this matter, and told this to WCG:

 Maynard did not have an elite-level season but had 24 of 83 punts inside the 20 while averaging 40.1 yards per punt, second-lowest for his career. While this won’t factor into one more Bears contract, Maynard as holder is a contributor to the success of FG kicker Robbie Gould.

Looking ahead: The Bears have brought punters to training camp to provide relief for Maynard. This year the camp leg or legs will be competition.

For our other Free Agency pieces, click here.