The Chicago Bears haven’t had the same kicker open the season in back to back years since Connor Barth did it in 2016 and 2017. Barth was just one in a long line of placekickers the Bears have trotted out since dumping Robbie Gould before the 2016 started, but now, five years after cutting Gould, they seem to have finally found a legit kicker that could stabilize the position for years.
The only problem, he’s a free agent.
Actually, Chicago’s entire special teams threesome is out of contract for 2021.
Here’s how the Bears’ specialists are looking now that the 2020 season has concluded.
Cairo Santos - Free agent - Santos was one of the kickers the Bears went though while trying to replace Gould back in 2017, but he reaggravated a groin injury and landed on IR that season. Four teams and three years later and he found his way back to Chicago, but this time he was healthy and he eventually locked the position down.
The Bears cut him before the regular season started, signed him to the practice squad, activated him for week one, sent him back to the practice squad, and then finally signed him to the 53-man roster for good before week two.
All he did was set a team record by making 93.8% of his field goals, and his 27 consecutive field goals was also a new team record. He also made his lone field goal in their playoff game, which was Chicago’s first postseason field goal make since 2018.
Patrick O’Donnell - Free agent - We always hear kickers and punters talk about the strange wind gusts that come through Soldier Field, so considering O’Donnell has been with the Bears for seven years, I would like to see him return. He’s been a consistent punter during his time in Chicago, he’s proven adept at directional punting, and he’s also shown an ability to kickoff if need be.
Patrick Scales - Free agent - If the Bears re-sign Scales it’ll be his sixth season in Chicago. He’s been consistent each year so if he wants to return, the Bears should definitely do it.
In fact, I see no reason why the Bears shouldn’t get the entire band back together for another run, and that includes the next guy too.
Eddy Pineiro - Restricted free agent - Pineiro has had some injury issues during his time in the NFL, but as we’ve seen with Santos, kickers can overcome those and go on to flourish. Who knows how long the pandemic will last, so having a kicker on the practice squad is just a smart idea.
2021 OUTLOOK - With the cap dropping, I would imagine the free agent specialists around the league are expecting little to no salary increase this year. But with a guy like Santos, who kicked on a very favorable salary a year ago and ended up being outstanding, I would expect he’ll be looking for a significant raise. After making less than seven figures in 2020, he may be looking for a jump into the $2 million a year neighborhood. That would make the 29-year old the 15th highest paid kicker in 2021, and depending on the length and guarantee, the Bears could structure things to be team friendly with an out if necessary in a year or two.
What do you think the Bears will do with their specialists in 2021?