One of the main concerns for the Chicago Bear as they report to training camp this week is their kicking position. General manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have spent the entire off-season trying to find the right kicker.
As camp opens, Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry will battle to be the team’s kicker, but that doesn’t mean the team won’t look elsewhere to resolve the issue though.
Pace revealed that the Bears were keeping their options open at the position at the pre-training camp press conference last Sunday:
We’re excited about the two young guys we have. It’s still open for competition. Those guys are going to battle it out. Obviously we’re scouring the waiver wire as we go forward. And it’s kind of open competition as we go forward.
Obviously there’s a hyper focus on kickers. But it applies to any position. So our pro scouts, led by Josh Lucas and Champ Kelly, they’re watching that. And we’re watching all the teams, all the competitive situations around the league — one of them will be kicker. We’re just watching that progress as we go forward. We know right now where we stand, where some of those battles are occurring. We’re watching those. And I’m sure there will be ones that will pop up that might surprise us.
Fry and Pineiro will have the entirety of camp and four preseason games to battle to be the team’s placekicker to start the season. The Bears want to make sure that they finally solve their kicking issue, thought to have been solved by Cody Parkey last season. Parkey missed several kicks including what should have been the game-winner against the Eagles in the playoffs last season. His struggles became both a local and national spectacle as he consistently missed by hitting the uprights of the goalposts.
Pace and Nagy exhausted all efforts to find the right kicker this offseason bringing in eight kickers to try out and hiring a kicking specialist.
Although Fry and Pineiro will be the kickers to start camp, Pace could opt to add a veteran kicker via free agency or through trade before the season starts on September 6th. In 2016, the Bears surprisingly cut longtime kicker Robbie Gould during final roster cuts. Chicago could be a recipient if a team parts way with a kicker at the end of the pre-season this year.
Some of the current free agent kickers include Mike Nugent, Kai Forbath, and Nick Rose. Nugent has spent time with the Bears before as he was their kicker for the final four games of the 2017 season. He was a perfect four for four on field goal attempts including a 55-yard field goal in the season finale.
Forbath has been in the league since 2012 and has kicked for the Redskins, Vikings, and Jaguars. He has a career field goal percentage of 85.7 and has made 11 kicks of 50-yards or longer in his career.
Rose is both the youngest and most inexperienced of the veteran kickers on the market. He has been in the league for two seasons and has only 14 career field goal attempts. In 2017, he made 11 kicks splitting time with the Chargers and Redskins including a career-long of 55-yards.
If Pace and the Bears want to acquire a kicker via trade, it could cost them a valuable draft pick. Teams are well aware of the Bears’ kicking woes and could drive charge a steep price for their kicker. Baltimore Ravens backup kicker Kaare Vedvik could be someone the Bears target via trade. Vedvik was impressive last season connecting on eight of nine field-goal attempts including a 56-yard attempt. Baltimore could take advantage of Chicago’s eagerness and request a future sixth-round pick or higher.
Pace may be reluctant to trade for a kicker at all given how many draft selections he has traded away in the last two seasons.
The kicking position battle will be the major focus surrounding Bears training camp when it begins on Friday. If Pineiro or Fry fails to be successful, the team does have options elsewhere. For a position that the organization has failed to get right since 2016, it could be resolved with a simple veteran signing or trade a week before the season opener.