The Chicago Bears will have a couple decisions to make in regards to their third phase this offseason, and I think it’s a no-brainer to re-sign both free agents. The specialists are often under appreciated, but as Bears fans we know first hand just how important these positions are. Do I need to run down the names that kicked in Chicago after Robbie Gould was released? Not counting the two new faces they just added on Wednesday, Cairo Santos is the only one of their three specialists locked up, and unless there’s a soccer bet from Betway about Santos getting back to his “futebol” roots that I’m not aware of, then I’d like to see the 30-year old continue in Chicago after his current deal expires.
It just makes too much sense for a brand new regime to lock up the special teamers and not have to worry about those positions for a few years.
In this 12-part series I’ll be listing the contract status of all the current Bears players on a position by position basis, while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Patrick Scales - Free agent - Scales has long snapped for the Chicago Bears in 65 straight games — 86 overall since the 2015 season — and during his time in Chicago he also has 10 tackles. If the Bears bring him back on another veteran minimum contract ($1.12 million), that’s just $415,000 more than what a rookie minimum salary would be, so is it worth rolling the Betway dice on a new player when the 32-year old Scales has been trustworthy?
Then again, I suppose it’s not as big a risk if new GM Ryan Poles adds a different veteran to the position just as a way to get his third phase in order as soon as possible.
Beau Brinkley - Signed through 2022 - And apparently Poles did want to get his special teams set, because on Wednesday afternoon he gave Brinkley, a 10-year veteran, a contract. Brinkley’s minimum salary deal carries the same cap hit as Scales’ does since both are in the league 7+ years.
Pat O’Donnell - Free agent - Last year O’Donnell made $1.75 million, which made him the 14th highest paid punter, and that’s about what he’s been his whole career. He’s never been a All-Pro, he’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and he’s never been among the league leaders in any punting category, but he’s a solid NFL punter that can also kickoff if need be.
Ryan Winslow - Signed through 2022 - My first draft of this article came before the Bears added Winslow, and I initially wrote that I would bring in another punter to compete with O’Donnell in camp.
You never know what competition could bring out in players, so a cheaper and younger option could push for a roster spot. Winslow is three years younger, and at $825,000 he does come cheaper, but he’s not as good. Last season O’Donnell had a 46.2 yards per punt average, and Winslow was at 39.1 between the three teams he punted for in 2021.
Cairo Santos - Signed through 2023 - While Santos’ contract technically expires after the 2023 season, there are two void years added on for an additional million dollars. His cap hit next year is going to be $3,175,000 (15th in the NFL), and like O’Donnell, Santos has been getting paid a fair salary for what he brings to the team. Cairo wasn’t quite as dynamic in 2021 compared to his 2020 season, but he did only miss 4 field goals. He has a million dollars guaranteed if he’s still a Bear on March 20 of this year, but that shouldn’t be a factor. They aren’t desperate to create cap space, so let him keep kicking.
If he has another good year, then perhaps they think about an extension which would put that void money to use.
2022 OUTLOOK - If it’s me I’m keeping Santos and re-upping with Scales and O’Donnell, but perhaps initial talks with the two free agents didn’t go very well. Maybe both are looking for a raise or simply looking for a new team and a fresh start. With free agency you never know, so it’ll be interesting to see if these two new additions were just competition or replacements.
It seems like Brinkley could be the Bears new long snapper, but I hope Winslow isn’t Plan-A at punter. If they do decide to let O’Donnell walk, then they better grab an undrafted free agent to come in to battle it out with Winslow in camp.