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Chicago Bears 2019 Roster Turnover: Time for a change on special teams

In this 13 part series we’ll take an in depth look at each position group for the Chicago Bears with an eye towards the 2019 season. We’ll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we’d like to see general manager Ryan Pace make.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Parkey - Signed through 2021 - Before he made it a ‘me thing and not a we thing,’ I think there was a chance the Chicago Bears would have brought Parkey back, but now I don’t see that happening. Think about this, If all his doinks were kicked just an inch differently, he’d have likely made them all. His teammates had his back after the wild card game, but you know there was a lot of frustration in that locker room and that frustration had to grow with him going on the Today Show.

According to Over the Cap, if the Bears cut Parkey before June 1, there will be $5,187,500 in dead cap money, but if they wait til after June 1, the dead money goes down to $4,062,500. It’s a significant hit either way, and it could limit the options they have in finding a replacement.

Patrick O’Donnell - Free agent - After trying to find a different punter last offseason, the Bears ended up giving O’Donnell a one-year deal for $1.5 million. His average salary in 2018 placed him 17th among punters.

He tied for 17th with a 39.7 net punting average, his 28 punts inside the 20 tied for 10th, his 20 punts fair caught was 14th, and 25 other punters had more yards returned against them than O’Donnell’s 150. So, he didn’t have a bad year, but I don’t think they’ll bring him back in 2019.

Patrick Scales - Restricted free agent - I’d imagine Scales returns since he’d be back on a RFA deal, but I’d kind of like to see some competition added too. Long snapper is such an afterthought for most fans, but he’s an important piece on every team.

Redford Jones - Signed to a reserve/futures contract - Jones is just the first step in finding a new kicker. A lot of fans are immediately down on Jones due to his field goal percentage at Tulsa being only 75%, but college field goal percentage isn’t always the best way to determine professional success. Did you realize that Robbie Gould only made 64% of his field goals at Penn State, or that Stephen Gostkowski was at 76% at Memphis,

Jones spent all of 2018 out of football and presumably working on his craft, plus he beat out all the other try out kickers the Bears brought in on January 25. He might be the next good young kicker to catch in with an NFL team.

2019 OUTLOOK - I’d expect the Bears to bring in at least one other young free agent kicker to compete, or go all in and sign another veteran. The vet most Bears’ fans are hoping for is the aforementioned Gould, but I think the 49ers are going to franchise tag him. Gould has been making it perfectly clear he’d love to return to Chicago, but it’s not entirely his call.

Matt Bryant was just cut by the Falcons, and even at 43-years old he’s bound to get a job in 2019. Gostkowski is also going to be a free agent, as will Sebastian Janikowski and Josh Lambo too, but I don’t think the Bears are going to tie big money up at the position with the dead space they are about to incur by cutting Parkey.

If the Bears go the young route, they’ll either draft a kicker (like Jacob mocked to them in his first mock) or sign an undrafted free agent. Jacob had the Bears taking Matt Gay from Utah in the 7th, but another possibility would be LSU’s Cole Tracy. In the last five years only eight kickers have been drafted, and of those eight, only 2 are with the team that drafted them and four are out of the league. Teams seem to have more success with undrafted free agents or with guys that have bounced around a bit in their youth before figuring it out.

If the Bears don’t get Gould, I hope they give the job to the best young kicker in camp and let him grow into the job.

As for punters, only 9 have been drafted in the last five years, but 7 of those guys are still with the teams that drafted them and all 9 are still punting. If the Bears draft a punter, the best two are probably Jack Bailey of Stanford or Mitch Wishnowsky of Utah. I’d be fine with a parade of young veterans and UDFAs at the punter spot too.

It’s not ideal to head into a season with uncertainty at the specialist positions, especially when the team has such high aspirations, but this is likely where the Bears are going to be.

What do you guys think they’ll do?