At the end of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace’s joint press conference Saturday night at Halas Hall, the Bears’ coach interjected while his general manager fielded another question regarding the team’s uncertain kicking situation.
“The one thing is just want to say real quick — I’m going to be upfront and honest too with the whole kicking thing, the elephant in the room,” Nagy said. “We already talked to our team about it. It’s good. There’s been so many examples in the last three, four weeks of, whether it’s an individual accomplishment in sports or whether it’s a team accomplishment that I could just throw at you right now, that something bad happened last year or in previous years, and it turned into a great deal the following year.
“So this right here is half full, not half empty,” Nagy said, holding a half-consumed bottle of water. “So that’s where we’re at right now. So all this kicking stuff and the field goals and everything like that, we’re open.
“So we can use the, ‘Hey, the Cody Parkey miss.’ It’s ok. It doesn’t hurt me. It’s fine. It’s good. So you guys can say it. We’re good with it, so use it, talk about it. It’s a healthy thing. So we feel good about it and we’re gonna get this thing right.”
The placekicking elephant in the room may no longer be Parkey, though. It’s a kicker far more accomplished, who happens to reside in the Bears' own backyard.
Pace chuckled when asked Saturday if he’d try to acquire one of the best kickers in the NFL who happens to live in Chicago and wants to be traded. Neither the question nor non-answer answer included the words “Robbie Gould,” but the discontented and possibly-available San Francisco 49ers kicker will loom larger over the Bears’ kicking competition than Parkey’s double-doink at this point.
The 49ers have no intention of trading Gould right now, of course. There's no rush for San Francisco general manager John Lynch to cave to the demands of a kicker, even one as reliable and accomplished as Gould. For the Bears to even explore the idea of trading for Gould, first he has to be available for a fair price (and anything more than a sixth-round pick, likely, isn't fair).
So for now, the wide net cast to find participants in the Bears’ kicking competition has brought in an avalanche of players. Signed prior to the NFL Draft were Redford Jones, Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry; John Baron II was added as an undrafted free agent, swelling the number of kickers on the 90-man roster to four. Several other kickers are expected to be at Halas Hall for rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis.
With a little over four months until cut-down weekend — the latest possible time for a kicking decision to be made — the Bears’ initial plan is to try to fix their kicking woes on the cheap. That’s the smart way to do it from a roster-building standpoint, especially when Parkey still carries with him a cap hit of over $4 million in 2019 to not play for the Bears.
But this is an issue the Bears absolutely have to solve in 2019, no matter the cost. Another playoff exit — or, worse, missing the playoffs entirely — thanks to poor placekicking would be a horrendous stain on the franchise and Pace’s tenure as general manager. The history books/Wikipedia pages won't praise a measured, frugal approach to solving this problem if the problem isn't solved at all.
So the Bears will move forward with the difficult, pressure-packed task of finding a suitable kicker with Gould’s trade demand, at least in the eyes of the fanbase, looming over every update emanating from Halas Hall or Olivet Nazarene University. Before any of these kickers has attempted a field goal in anything more than a tryout, though, Pace is keeping all of his options open to find the answer the Bears need.
“Maybe it’s a little unorthodox to have four kickers out there,” Pace said. “We don’t care. Let’s increase the competition and let’s let the whole thing battle out. We’re unbiased on it. Our eyes are wide open. If we need to add a veteran, we’re going to do whatever we can to get that situation right. We know the importance of it, and that’s why we’re attacking it in such an aggressive manner.”