Pat O’Donnell is an interesting case with the Chicago Bears.
Despite the fact that O’Donnell has been amazingly consistent throughout his career with a 44.0 yard-per-punt (Y/P) average (2014 - 43.8 Y/P, 2015 - 44.2 Y/P, 2016 - 44.0 Y/P), it hasn’t necessarily been great.
Consider that O’Donnell’s Y/P ranked 25th in the NFL in 2016 while his “net” average of 39.9 dropped him to 27th in the NFL. By comparison, Johnny Hekker of the Los Angeles Rams led the league with a 46.0 “net” average. That is quite the difference in field position over the course of the season.
What about directional punting you may ask? Well, O’Donnell is slightly better against the field but still below average. Putting the ball inside the 20 is the most widely-used statistic to determine this particular skill.
O’Donnell placed 24 punts inside the 20, which was good enough to tie for 19th in the NFL with the Jets. How exactly did this stack up with the aforementioned Hekker? Well, not very well as it turns out. Hekker led the league with 51 punts inside the 20.
It is not necessarily fair to compare a player against the best player at a given position but it does give you an idea of how far off the pace O’Donnell truly is. As many of us recall, Brad Maynard could be a very good weapon for the Bears.
Frankly, I am a little surprised that O’Donnell hasn’t had more competition since general manager Ryan Pace took over for Phil Emery. In a contract year, let’s see if O’Donnell can finally live up to the moniker of “Mega Punt.”
Weight: 220 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
According to Spotrac, O’Donnell’s deal with the Bears, the final of his four-year rookie contract, is worth $690,000, with $26,327 of it guaranteed. He has a base salary of $690,000 and a $26,327 signing bonus.
Reason for improvement in 2017
There aren’t many reasons to be optimistic that O’Donnell becomes better than he has shown in his first three seasons. As noted, he has been remarkably consistent and it is hard to see that changing much. However, if he works on being able to get more consistent hang-time and can develop the old “corner coffin,” then he could certainly see a major uptick in his numbers for 2017.
Reason for regression in 2017
Just as it is difficult to see O’Donnell having a major improvement over his career averages, I think it is unlikely that he will regress either. The biggest hurdle for any player is health and I think that is the most likely reason that he would find his 2017 season ranging below his typical year.
Final roster odds
Given that there are no other punters on the Bears roster, this appears to be 100 percent. I don’t necessarily agree with not bringing in some competition, but there are so many roster battles at other spots, that punter seems very low on the priorities list. Barring unforeseen injuries, Pat O’Donnell will once again man the punting and holding duties for the Bears in 2017.
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