Pat O'Donnell

Pat O'Donnell reportedly to sign new deal with Bears

odonnell-318.jpg
USA TODAY

Pat O'Donnell reportedly to sign new deal with Bears

The Bears are having an open competition at kicker, but it appears there won't be any drama at punter heading into training camp.

According to Adam Schefter, the Bears will be bringing back punter Pat O'Donnell on a two-year deal. Schefter reported the deal is worth $4 million.

O'Donnell made $1 million with a $500,000 signing bonus in 2018, so this represents a raise for him.

The 28-year-old has spent his whole career with the Bears since they drafted him in the sixth round in 2014. In 2018, he averaged 45 yards per punt and had 28 punts inside the 20, which matched a career-high.

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Bears grades and needs: Will an open competition lead to a kicking fix?

Bears grades and needs: Will an open competition lead to a kicking fix?

2018 depth chart

Placekicker

1. Cody Parkey
Usage: 16 games
2019 status: $4,062,500 cap hit

The Bears will release Parkey when the new league year begins March 13, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Parkey’s future with the Bears likely was sealed when he double-doinked what would’ve been a game-winning 43-yard field goal against the Eagles on wild card weekend, but he pounded an additional nail into the coffin of his Bears career when he went on “TODAY” five days later. The Bears didn’t know Parkey was going on the show, and the appearance clearly irked coach Matt Nagy, who characterized it as not “much of a we thing.”

Parkey will still carry a cap hit of $4,062,500 after he’s released, with $5,187,500 in dead money tied to him. His contract wasn’t structured for the Bears to get out from it after one year, but they were left no choice after the double-doing and TV appearance. 

2. Redford Jones
Usage: Was not on an NFL team in 2018
2019 status: Reserve/future contract

The Bears signed Jones after working out a number of kickers at Halas Hall in late January, taking the first step in building a kicking competition that’ll play out through OTAs and training camp. Jones wasn’t in the NFL in 2018 but made 74.6 percent of his kicks (50/67) in three collegiate seasons at Tulsa. 

Expect the Bears to be active in the free agent kicking market, as well as the draft — the Bears could use one of their five draft picks on a kicker (they do have two in the seventh round) or could bring in someone as an undrafted free agent. Either way: With Robbie Gould likely to have the franchise tag placed on him by the San Francisco 49ers, the Bears seem destined for a wide-open kicking competition in the coming months. 

Punter

1. Pat O’Donnell
Usage: 16 games
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

What the Bears do with O’Donnell will be interesting — they brought him back last year, but only on a one-year, $1.5 million deal with just $500,000 guaranteed, per Spotrac. He won a punting competition to keep his job during training camp and had a solid enough season, though his shank of a punt against the Eagles set up Philadelphia’s game-winning drive. With cap space scarce, this could be a position where the Bears go cheap with a couple undrafted free agents. 

Long snapper

1. Patrick Scales
Usage: 16 games
2019 status: Restricted free agent

Scales has done a fine job as the Bears’ long snapper and quickly fended off a challenge from a undrafted free agent Tanner Carew during training camp. Scales earned $630,000 last year and could be back on a similarly inexpensive deal. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 11

The Bears absolutely have to get the kicker position right, something Ryan Pace hasn’t been able to do since releasing Gould prior to the 2016 season (that move, to be fair, wasn’t entirely unwarranted, as Gould’s reliability had waned before it). Expect a wide net to be cast between free agents and draft picks/UDFAs, and Pace will likely be active on the waiver wire in the summer to keep as many options on the table as possible. 

From Bears’ win over Seahawks, 4 takeaways not named “Khalil” or “Mitch”

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USA TODAY

From Bears’ win over Seahawks, 4 takeaways not named “Khalil” or “Mitch”

The Bears reaching .500 is in itself news, since the last time it happened (2014) was two Bears head coaches and three Brandon Marshall uniforms ago, and only three current position players (Kyles Fuller and Long, Sherrick McManis) were on the roster back then.

But beyond getting coach Matt Nagy his first win as an NFL head coach, the win over Seattle occasioned a handful of takeaways beyond all of the ones headed up by Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky:

Defense in a rush, even at less than full strength

The Bears lead the NFL with 10 sacks (which is on pace to fall just short of the NFL team record of 72 for a season, set in 1984 by the Bears, for those who delight in frivolous early-season stat’ing). The production is especially noteworthy because the sacks are spread among eight different players.

Even more significantly, the sacks haven’t just come from eight different players; they’ve come from eight different POSITIONS, including every position in the front seven in the Bears base 3-4: both outside-linebacker spots (Mack, Aaron Lynch) and both insides (Trevathan and Roquan Smith); both defensive-end slots (Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris); and nose tackle (Eddie Goldman).

The rush has contributed to one of the NFL’s worst pass-picking secondaries effectively sealing the Seattle game with one interception (Prince Amukamara) and having the Green Bay game within its grasp on another (Kyle Fuller).

What makes the sack production even more impressive is that none of the stops have come from Leonard Floyd, still playing with one hand encased on a padded cast and whose playing time was cut back from 77 percent of the snaps in Green Bay to 59 percent against Seattle. Floyd has zero quarterback hits in his 85 total snaps but delivered 3 tackles, a pass defense’d and a fumble recovery against the Seahawks despite his limited hand, which is a factor.

“Oh, for sure,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last week. “I mean there’s no way around it. Like trying to type on your computers there with one hand. You’ve got your head in the sand if you don’t think that affects a guy’s play.”

Kevin White’s absence is surprising.

White did not generate the wow factor of rookie Javon Wims in preseason but he revealed an eye-opening ability in the open field with the football in his hands, the kind of yards-after-catch that West Coast offenses treasure. Not insignificantly, with the added reps with the No. 1 offense while Allen Robinson was held out for knee rehab, then working with Robinson in a variety of packages, White had developed a positive relationship with Mitch Trubisky; the two worked out together in California, and quarterbacks have a warm spot for 6-3 receivers with downfield speed.

But White played just two snaps against Seattle, down from 12 at Green Bay, and he has yet to be thrown a pass after consistently earning plaudits from coaches through the off- and preseason.

“I think that’s just how the game goes,” Nagy said. “Sometimes depending on whether it’s a slight injury to a wide receiver, a guy’s out of breath or tired, but there’s nothing either good or bad from that. It’s just the way it kind of played out.”

How White’s NFL future plays out is becoming increasingly problematic, and less and less likely to be in Chicago. Allen Robinson is signed for three years, Taylor Gabriel for four, and Anthony Miller’s rookie contract is for four. White went into this off- and preseason with a clean slate in the form of a new coaching staff. That slate still has 14 games remaining, but White doesn’t play special teams, and the only other players with fewer than 21 game snaps Monday were major special-teams contributors: Josh Bellamy, 2 snaps on offense, 18 on ‘teams; Ben Braunecker, 1 on offense, 19 on ‘teams; and Daniel Brown, 1 and 14.

Fourth-quarter’ing

The Bears can talk about finishing but their two opponents have combined for five fourth-quarter touchdowns, leading to the loss of a 20-point bulge and the game in Green Bay, and turning a 14-point lead over Seattle into a one-TD game. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson have posted a combined passer rating of 98.4, up from an 89.9 for 2017. The Bears held the Seahawks to just 2-for-10 on third downs for three quarters, then had Seattle convert all three in the fourth quarter.

Neither the Packers nor Seahawks scored in their first quarters, but of the 41 teams scored against the Bears, 35 of them have been tallied in the fourth quarter.

Probably a jinx here, but special teams have been special

Pat O’Donnell’s job wasn’t all that secure after last season, the fourth in his four NFL seasons with a punting net less than 40 yards. The Bears re-signed him but just to a one-year contract and brought in rookie Ryan Winslow for preseason competition. O’Donnell rose to the challenge with a net of 41.7 yards on 12 punts, five yards longer than Winslow on his seven.

O’Donnell has kept his game on: nine punts with a 41.8-yard average net, and four of the kicks inside the 20. His work has combined to allow the Packers and Seahawks to return just two of eight punts, the inverse of the Bears, who’ve had Tarik Cohen return six of the eight caught.

The NFL has been awash in missed placekicks this year – 15 last weekend – and the Bears have had constant and serious kicker issues in the past few seasons, ever since cutting Robbie Gould, come to think of it. Conor Barth after Gould, then Cairo Santos and Mike Nugent and Cairo Santos brought in last year after Barth missed five of his 23 field-goal attempts.

Cody Parkey has made all five of his PAT’s and his four field-goal tries, although none longer than 33 yards. The results have made the Bears one of only 10 teams to be 100 percent in both field goals and extra points through two games.