Free agency hasn’t begun yet for the 2019 offseason, but Ryan Pace is getting a head start on adding competition at kicker.
The general manager already confirmed the team plans to release Cody Parkey when the new league year starts next Wednesday, and he brought in another leg for the competition this week.
The Bears held another group kicker tryout at Halas Hall, according to the Chicago Tribune, and they signed former University of Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt.
His college career was unimpressive, and his unfortunate last name didn’t help.
During his senior season with the Panthers, he hit just 10-of-17 field goals (58.8 percent), and he finished his college career under 70 percent.
Blewitt has reportedly cleaned up his kicking mechanics and won a recent popular field goal contest in Phoenix before his workout in Chicago.
He joins recently signed kicker Redford Jones as the current competition to be the next Bears kicker. The team is expected to still add a veteran free agent or a rookie from the 2019 NFL Draft class.
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It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL Draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.
Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.
If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.
Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.
Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.
Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.
The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.
But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bears checked-in at eighth.
The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.
It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class — essentially, Montgomery — garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.
Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.
Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.