For every NFL franchise, each offseason begins with self-evaluation. That process is driven by one prevailing question: where can we improve our roster? The Bears have a very good roster; one of the better in the league. But their deficiencies in 2018, one in particular, kept them from advancing in the playoffs. They have a serious, specific need. And that need must be addressed in the coming months.
The Bears Need a Kicker.
Cody Parkey will be handed a pink slip as soon as it makes the most financial sense, leaving the Bears looking for a starter at the pivotal kicker position. (If you don’t think kicker is pivotal you missed this postseason.) Three points of note:
(1) Redford Jones was chum for the sharks. This is not to say the Tulsa product can’t kick his way onto the 2019 roster but that is not the current expectation inside the Halls of Halas. The 24 year-old product of Steve and Kristi Jones (Wikipedia is so funny) has one significant advantage: for most of January, all of February and half of March he’s going to be the only kicker on the Bears roster with a chance to play football for the team in September.
Helpful advice for Jones: go to Soldier Field and kick. Even if you have to steal the key from someone on the custodial staff.
(2) Free agents cost money and good free agents cost almost exclusively too much money. If the Bears want to bid for Stephen Gostkowski, they’ll end up making the same mistake every team makes when they acquire a Belichick castoff. The answer in free agency – IF there is an answer in free agency – is Robbie Gould. From a Patrick Finley piece in the Sun-Times:
“Obviously I still have an affinity for the city of Chicago,” Gould said while helping other Payton Award nominees build a playground at Warren Boys and Girls Club. “I really enjoy playing for San Francisco. They have exclusive rights to talk to me until free agency opens up. I think there’s a mutual understanding of wanting to go back there, but I’ve been through free agency before and you never know what’s going to happen.
“They’ve said they want to bring me back, obviously. At some point we have to negotiate a contract. . . . When the time’s right, they’ll do that and we’ll figure it out. If not, we’ll figure it out.”
If Gould does ends up as a free agent, he would find the Bears intriguing. His family still lives here and will continue to do so after he retires. If he signs a long-term contract, though, he plans on taking his family with him to that city.
“I’d like to be next to my family,” he said. “Those are things that will play a big part in free agency, for sure, if I ended up getting there.”
Clearly, Gould wants to return. But he can’t say that, of course. If the Niners don’t franchise him and free agency opens, the Bears have no choice. They must sign him. Because even if he misses every single kick he attempts in 2019, it’s a decision that will never be second-guessed.
(3) The team’s biggest need is the position least-coveted in the early rounds of the draft. If the Bears get to late-April and Jones is the only kicker on the roster, expect them to (a) possibly take a shot in the 6-7th rounds on a top prospect or (b) certainly bring in a few guys who don’t hear their names called in whatever city will waste money hosting the event.
My guy? San Diego State’s John Baron II.
The Bears had a kicker problem in October. They had a kicker problem in December. And their kicker problem sent them home from the postseason. If they still have a kicker problem come training camp it is a severe indictment of the personnel department of this franchise.