Lutz. Rosas. Lambo. Butker. Gano. Prater. Elliott. Yes, even Robbie Gould, to name only a few.Of course we’d all like the next Justin Tucker or Stephen Gostkowski, but the odds strongly suggest that the Bears’ long, agonizingly evasive solution to their kicker conundrum will be someone who’s been in more than one NFL camp.
And perhaps good news! It wouldn’t have with Elliott Fry, but that shoe could fit Eddy Pineiro, Chicago’s (for now) lone signed challenger to replace not Cody Parkey but Gould — whose release in 2016, rather than Parkey’s “double-doink” in January, is the root of Ryan Pace’s biggest headache to date as a general manager.
Perhaps Pineiro will be Pace’s Week 1 remedy — if not permanent cure-all. But we think it’s time to identify a few of the other potential fixes just in case. First, a few reminders: Pace thought he found the Bears’ elixir — now-Vikings PK Kaare Vedvik — but Chicago’s pursuit came up short. We didn’t first report this or continue mentioning it to pile on; it’s more to remind that Pace has already shown a willingness to spend draft capital for a solution.
And with the No. 24 waiver claim, behind a list of kicker-needy teams including the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and even potentially a few division rivals, it’s possible, if not likely, the Bears must again be willing to pony up draft capital if they confidently identify a Pineiro upgrade over the next two weeks.
A look at the field:
Teams with rookie draft picks
Buccaneers vet PK Cairo Santos: We begin here because Tampa Bay was the first of two teams in April (Cleveland) to draft a kicker, Utah’s Matt Gay. And unlike the Browns, the Bucs appear poised to roll with the 145th overall pick and part ways with Santos, who Bears fans may or may not remember, as he was the third of five veterans (so far) acquired by Pace in his efforts to halt the kicking carousel.
Santos, 27, never kicked in a game with the Bears before heading to IR with a groin issue that preceded his signing. But he’s a former Lou Groza Award winner whom Matt Nagy should know well after being the Chiefs primary kicker for Nagy’s final four seasons in Kansas City. Reports out of Tampa indicate the Brazilian-born Santos has been solid in camp, much like he was to begin his NFL career before suffering the groin injury midway through the 2016 campaign, with a career 83.2 conversion rate (104-of-125), including 7-of-14 from 50-plus, in addition to 6-of-6 in the postseason.
Browns rookie Austin Seibert and vet Greg Joseph: The FBS all-time scoring leader and reigning Big 12 special teams player of the year, Seibert, by all accounts, has had a difficult first summer in the NFL, including missing his only preseason attempt (from 51, mind you).
But Joseph, the Florida Atlantic product who hit 17-of-20 (85 percent) as a rookie before seeing Cleveland draft his potential replacement, has also struggled, with team brass saying this weekend it could seek additional competition.
Vikings veteran Dan Bailey: The most accurate kicker in Cowboys history hasn’t exactly inspired the same level of confidence since he was cut by Dallas last summer and scooped by the Vikes. Bailey was more than 11 points below his career mark (86.6) in his first and likely only season in purple, converting only 75 percent (same as his last year wearing the star). Obviously if the Vikings were comfortable with Bailey, Vedvik wouldn’t be there. Moreover, Bailey has kicked in a dome most of his career. Still, he’s only 31 and has also made a ton of big kicks.
Teams with likely “camp legs”
Carolina Panthers’ Joey Slye
All the undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech, who debuted two weeks ago at Soldier Field, has done is convert his first three FG attempts — including two from at least 50 — and both of his freebies. The Panthers extended Graham Gano last year, so Slye likely is auditioning for other teams. Was it fate that his first judges were Ryan Pace and Co.?
Indianapolis Colts’ Cole Hedlund
His job responsibility is pretty clear — preserve future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri — and the North Texas product has been really solid while converting 4-of-5 so far this preseason, albeit with a long of 44. But Hedlund converted both of his 50-plus yard attempts in his graduate season following a productive career at Arkansas.
Cincinnati Bengals’ Tristan Vizcaino
The undrafted rookie from Washington, where he did more punting, has a big leg and has hit 2-of-3 this preseason, including a 57-yard bomb — unofficially (it’s preseason) the longest in franchise history. His miss was from 46, and Vizcaino was only 12-of-20 in his lone season as the Huskies’ placekicker, but he figures to be available after Cincinnati extended incumbent Randy Bullock last year.
Green Bay Packers’ Sam Ficken
Ficken has made only 3-of-6 regular-season attempts over the past two seasons, all with the L.A. Rams while spelling Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein. The 26-year-old out of Penn State has reportedly been up and down this summer in Green Bay, where he’s unlikely to supplant Mason Crosby. It may or may not matter that Ficken, unlike Pineiro, has a bit of — unremarkable — NFL experience.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ Matthew Wright
The rookie from UCF is competing with former Pro Bowler Chris Boswell and has hit his first two preseason attempts — from 42 and 46. His Knights’ mark, 55-of-71 (.774), is tied for the best in school history.