It’s that time of year again. Four teams are duking it out for a bid to the Super Bowl while Chicago Bears fans are stuck reading article about what free agents should be brought back. Chin up, times are changing and there’s plenty to be excited about.
Newly hired head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have their hands full in terms of free agents. The Bears have 20 unrestricted free agents and five restricted. Lots of decisions to be made.
To make things easy we will be breaking the free agents into four categories: special teams (six players), offense (7), defense (7) and restricted (5). Each section will have its own article coming out every other day over the next week.
These articles aren’t going to try and predict the specifics in terms of length and amount of the contracts, just simply if the players are re-signed (in) or let go (out).
Let’s start with special teams.
Mike Nugent, K
Nugent was the fourth kicker signed by the Bears in 2017 and he did a serviceable job. The 13-year vet went 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts, the farthest being a 55-yarder. Nugent showed off his range in his four weeks in Chicago, hitting from 27, 34, 41 and 55. Where he struggled was extra points, missing two of his nine attempts. Those are kicks you need to make. The 35-year-old is at his tail end of his career and it would be smarter for the Bears to go with a younger kicker.
Andrew DePaola, LS
The Bears were in a weird spot, losing their starting long snapper before the start of the season. In walks DePaola, who spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being signed by the Bears. While there isn’t a bad thing to be said about his play, he didn’t do anything egregious, Chicago has a better option. They aren’t on the roster at the moment, but the “better option” is a restricted free agent. Just a little teaser…
Cairo Santos, K
After the disaster that was Connor Barth, the Bears took a chance on the former Kansas City Chief and injured Santos. It wasn’t a great start for the Brazilian, who missed his first attempt for the team. In his defense, the snap was high, it was an 54-yard attempt and his first in-game attempt in over two months. Santos did attempt a 38-yarder later in that game and nailed it. He also went 2-for-2 on extra points. Santos only suited up for one other game before, against the San Francisco 49ers where Chicago didn’t attempt a field goal, before ending up on IR. The 26-year-old is the best option the Bears have.
The man better known as Mega Punt, O’Donnell lives up to his name. He averaged 47 yards per punt, seventh best in the league, and had the sixth-longest punt of the year, 69 yards. O’Donnell has improved every year in Chicago. Since his rookie year his average has increased by nearly four yards and took a 2-yard jump from 2016 to 2017. Not to mention he’s got a great arm.
Josh Bellamy, WR/Gunner
While Bellamy’s skills as a receiver are constantly being questioned, there is no doubt that he is a fantastic special teamer. He is one of the better gunners in the league and has that tenacity and grit that coaches love to see. His attitude is infectious and it gets the rest of the group going. That being said, he’s still a receiver and the receiver room is going to be packed to the gills in 2018. Bellamy’s excellent special team prowess won’t outweigh his receiving shortcomings.
Sherrick McManis, CB/Gunner
Honestly, even listing McManis as a cornerback is a reach. He’s a pure special teamer. The only Bear left from the Lovie Smith era, the 30-year-old has literally made a living off of special teams. He was widely considered to be a bubble player at the beginning of the year and willed his way to not only a roster spot, but was named a captain. Regardless, it would be shocking to see the Bears bring him back. It’s time to move on from the older players and get younger.
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