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Bears roster breakdown, 90-in-90: Connor Barth

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The next part of this Bears roster series has us taking a look at the re-signed kicker in Barth. Can he hold off Andy Phillips and retain his role?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Connor Barth
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, our very own Robert Zeglinski touched on the departure of Robbie Gould and the signing of Connor Barth. There isn’t a whole lot more to add to that dynamic, so I will let Robert’s article speak for itself.

Barth signed with the Bears prior to the 2016 season and was behind the eight-ball the minute that he signed his contract. He was replacing the Bears all-time leading scorer. The pressure of replacing Gould likely played a factor in Barth’s rough start to 2016.

There is no better way to earn the ire of fans than to miss your first kick and proceed to make only two of your first four attempts by the end of Week 4, and five of eight after Week 5. That works out to a 62.5 percent field goal percentage. Not exactly up to the “Gould Standard Bears fans expect.

However, after Week 5, Barth went on his best stretch of the season. From Week 6 through Week 14, he only missed one kick and was 12 of 13 overall. By the end of the year, he had a career-low, but still respectable 78.3 percent field goal percentage.

Barth has struggled in his career with hitting field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer. His career field goal percentage for attempts of 50 yards or longer is 60.7 percent. This stands to reason why he had a relatively small number (23) of attempts overall, and only three attempts over 50 yards in 2016.

Given the combination of strong winds and weak offenses, it is not a surprise that some view Andy Phillips as a serious contender to win the kicking job in the preseason.

Biography

Age: 31-years-old

Experience: Ninth year

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 193 pounds

Contract and salary cap:

According to Spotrac, Barth’s deal with the Bears is for one year, $980,000, with $155,000 of it guaranteed. He has a base salary of $900,000 in 2017. Should he be cut, the Bears will incur $155,000 of dead cap space. In other words, it would not hurt the Bears much, should he be released.

Reason for improvement in 2017

As noted above, I think that being a year removed from replacing Robbie Gould and getting a season of kicking at Soldier Field under his belt should take a lot of pressure off of Barth. Historically, Soldier Field has been a tough place to kick and it takes a certain kind of leg to be able to cut through the swirling winds, especially as the temperatures drop.

Reason for regression in 2017

Connor Barth just simply doesn’t have the leg strength. His career numbers suggest that he simply cannot consistently make long field goals nor does he have the sheer leg strength to actually kick through the wind at Soldier Field. Although he did rebound after a difficult start to 2016, Barth has not consistently been able to keep a current job in the NFL. The combination of the rough 2016 season and the competition of a young kicker with a big leg could prove to be more than he could bear.

Final roster odds

I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about kickers in general but what I do know is that Phillips’ upside far exceeds what we know Connor Barth is. This the perfect season to find the long-term answer at this all-important, yet underrated position. Given his NFL experience and John Fox’s preference for a veteran kicker, I would normally give Barth a higher chance. But the winds of change could be blowing off of Lake Michigan at a feverish (Ryan) Pace. I put the odds of Barth making it through to the 53-man roster at 40-60. Phillips will have to crash and burn to not make this team.

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