Robbie Gould - signed through 2017 - Gould should be fully recovered from his quad injury that kept him out of the final four games of the 2014 season. With such a sputtering offense last year, Gould wasn't used as often as in previous years. In 12 games he only had 12 field goal attempts. He had a stretch where he didn't attempt a field goal from October 12th to November 16th. He couldn't get into a rhythm and he had a career low 75% conversion rate.
If you factor in the injury, the less than stellar stats, a locker room confrontation, his TD Ameritrade and Hhgregg commercials, his confusion and criticism about the Jay Cutler benching and desire to get back to the "Chicago Bear way," you can see how there was plenty of ammunition for some fans to throw the words he uttered in 2013 back at him through social media.
If asked, most working Americans would complain about their salary. No matter how much someone makes per year, they would always want more. If you make minimum wage, you'd like another buck more per hour. If you're pulling in $25,000 a year, you'd like a boost to $27k. If you're hitting six figures, you'd want more than an annual standard cost of living wage increase. But if a pro athlete ever expresses a desire to make more money, he's endlessly criticized.
Back in 2013, when Robbie Gould was looking for an extension, he said, "That's why I asked to renegotiate two weeks ago. I'm not focused on it, but you know what, I'm playing for a deal. I'm playing to feed my family."
Ever since that day, when ever Gould misses a kick, or says something outspoken in the media, or does anything that could be construed in a negative manner, fans rip him for his 2013 statement. It's not just disgruntled Bears fans cracking jokes about Gould, it's members of the Chicago media. In my opinion, it just comes off as petty jealousy seeing members of the media tweet wisecracks about a guy doing what we'd all be doing if we were in his situation, try to maximize our salary.
Slap the word 'working' in for the word 'playing' up in his quote and isn't that what every family man is doing? Working to feed their family? I'll never understand the angst some fans and members of the media have over how much professional athletes make.
Back in 2013 Gould even issued an apology to explain his statement, "Feed my family comment was an expression I used when talking about both sides in a negotiation. Sorry to offended anyone not my intentions."
But let's get back to football, Pro Football Focus graded Gould's inconsistent season at a -0.8. He didn't have one overall grade in the green (positive) for the entire season.
Pat O'Donnell - signed through 2017 - Some Bears' fans have pined this year for the punter-that-got-away,Tress Way. Way had a couple different go-rounds in Chicago, losing out to Adam Podlesh in 2013 and losing out to O'Donnell in 2014, before leading the NFL in gross punting average this past season. O'Donnell was way down in 27th for that particular category.
Tress Way bested O'Donnell in just about every meaningful regular season punting category, prompting Bear fans to claim that it was O'Donnell's status as a draft pick that kept him around. While there's no way for sure to know if O'Donnell being a 6th round draft pick had anything to do with his roster spot, we can look at the preseason stats from Way and O'Donnell to see if the Bears made the best choice at the time.
The two Bears punters battled through training camp, with fans and media popularizing the #MegaPunt hashtag in regards to O'Donnell's booming punts and beat reporters claiming that Way was stepping up his game. But in preseason it was O'Donnell that got the better of Way.
Tress Way punted 5 times for a 41 yard average, with a 39 yard net average in two preseason games as a Bear. In those same two preseason games, O'Donnell also punted 5 times, but he had a gross average of 46.6 and a net average of 42.4.
O'Donnell showed enough to win the job and the Bears decided to cut Way, who was picked up by Washington, and proceeded to take advantage of a 2nd chance.
PFF had Way graded at +19.9, with O'Donnell coming in at +11.6.
Jeremy Cain - free agent - Cain was OK as the long snapper in 2014 for the Bears, but he wasn't The Mann.
Jay Feely - free agent - Feely was brought into the Bears' family when the locker room was in full dysfunction mode and his post season tell-all about Chicago's leadership garnered him a ton of attention. Odds are, the soon to be 39 year old Feely will never kick in the NFL again.
2015 OUTLOOK - The Bears will have a punter or two in camp, if for nothing else than to prevent O'Donnell from being overworked in practice. But anything can happen when a player receives an opportunity. O'Donnell will need to build off his rookie season and come into camp ready to be the clear cut #1 punter from the start. If there was any favoritism given to him because he was a draft pick, that's in the past now.
Gould does carry a hefty price tag for a kicker, with a cap hit of $3.6 million in 2015, but cutting him wouldn't make much sense. The Bears will have another kicker in camp, but a healthy Gould is still one of the best kickers in the NFL.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bears target the best collegiate long snapper as a priority free agent after the draft. There are also some veteran free agent options available, plus if Bears head coach John Fox and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers are looking for some familiarity, Broncos long snapper Aaron Brewer is a restricted free agent.
What are your thoughts on Chicago's specialist situation for 2015?