On September 4, 2016, the Chicago Bears released kicker Robbie Gould after 11 seasons with the team. One day after his release, they signed journeyman Connor Barth to take the reigns as the starting kicker.
Since then, Gould has gone on to make 27 of his 29 field goal attempts, as well as 30 of his 34 extra-point tries. Although Barth has him beat in extra point percentage (44 of 45), he has only completed 25 of his 34 field goal tries. As if his field goal percentage last year -ranked 26th in the NFL among qualified players - couldn’t be any worse, he is currently tied for 29th in that category.
Given all of these numbers, it’s safe to say that Barth is more of a liability than he is an aid on special teams. Considering the fact that it’s currently the Bears’ bye week, what better time is there to look into potential replacements?
You’ll rarely find a true stud of a kicker in free agency halfway through the season, but there are quite a few players on the open market who would be better than Barth has been thus far.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Myers, Zach Hocker, Dan Carpenter, Younghoe Koo.
Let’s start with the homegrown talent here. Phillips, who has been known to drop shade on Twitter whenever Barth (or, for a time, Roberto Aguayo) misses a field goal, spent time on the Bears’ roster in the offseason. He was unable to put Barth out of a job, but he could be someone they could target just based off of familiarity alone.
Phillips went 84-for-100 on field goal tries in his four years at Utah. He also missed just one of his 176 extra points attempts. Talk about consistency.
A handful of people thought that he would end up taking over as Chicago’s starting kicker this season. If given a chance, he could prove that those people were right to believe so.
Coons didn’t play in 2016, and he lost out on the Los Angeles Rams’ starting kicker spot this past preseason. However, if his performances in the 2015 season and this year’s preseason are any indication, he still has an NFL future ahead of him.
As the kicker for the Cleveland Browns two years ago, Coons made 28 of his 32 field goal attempts and went 22-for-24 on extra points. The former stat finished within the top half of the league. He also made two of his three attempted field goals in this year’s preseason, his longest make being from 53 yards.
If signed by the Bears, Coons, who is just 25 years old, could have a chance to prove himself worthy of getting a long-term contract.
My personal favorite of the bunch, Santos is admittedly a bit of a wild card. He was surprisingly cut by the Kansas City Chiefs after a groin injury suffered over the offseason. Despite there being very little information about his recovery, it would be smart to give him a shot. After all, he’s the best option available in free agency at the moment.
Santos finished fifth in the NFL last season with an 88.6 field goal percentage. He also completed eight of his nine attempts from 40 yards or more. By comparison, Barth made four of his seven tries from deep. Santos also forced touchbacks on 48 of his 86 kickoffs last season. He played in the Chiefs’ first three games, making all three of his field goal attempts, all 12 of his extra point tries, and forcing touchbacks on 10 of his 18 kickoffs. To top it all off, he’s only 25 years old.
Obviously, this all depends on whether or not Santos is actually healthy. If he proves that he is, though, then he might be the best available choice for the Bears.