Bears Offseason Outlook: Special Teams

Editor's note: This is the 11th and final installment in a series of positional breakdowns as the Bears enter the offseason. Click here for all of them.
(670 The Score) The lasting images of kicker Cody Parkey's first season with the Bears was a double-doinking field-goal attempt to lose the wild-card game before waving into the cameras of the "Today Show" five days later.

The struggles of Parkey coupled with the "me" move in his television appearance spell another kicking change coming for the Bears. 

Who's back: kicker Cody Parkey, 26; kicker Redford Jones, 24 (reserve/future)

Parkey remains under contract with the Bears for three more seasons, though general manager Ryan Pace made it clear that the team would be seeking competition after Parkey converted just 76.7 percent of his field-goal attempts and missed three extra points in 2018.

The first kicker added as competition was Jones, who didn't kick in the NFL last season. The Bears signed him to a reserve/future contract after he won a kicking battle at Halas Hall, which included veterans like Nick Folk and Blair Walsh.

Free agents: punter Pat O'Donnell, long snapper Patrick Scales (RFA)

In an offseason that will likely be fairly quiet for the Bears, they can address two impending vacancies on special teams by bringing O'Donnell and Scales back on new contracts. 

2018 review

Games are won or lost by the entire team, not just one position -- especially a kicker. But the struggles of Parkey certainly proved to be costly and had a direct impact on the Bears' season ending when it did. When considering he was signed to a lucrative four-year deal in March, his inconsistencies were even more frustrating for the Bears.

Parkey missed a game-winning 52-yard field-goal attempt in overtime of Chicago's 31-28 loss at Miami on Oct. 14. The Bears would eventually fall one victory shy of a first-round bye in the playoffs, meaning that Parkey miss was part of why they ended up in the wild-card game.

Parkey converted 23 of 30 field-goal attempts and was 42-of-45 on extra-point attempts 2018. It was his misses -- some of the spectacularly head-shaking variety -- for which his season will forever be remembered.

Parkey missed four kicks -- two field goals and two extra points -- off the uprights in a win against the Lions at Soldier Field on Nov. 11. The struggles created great concern for Parkey's capabilities and his confidence moving forward.

Then came the playoff game at Soldier Field, with Parkey hitting his first three field goals, which helped put the Bears in position for victory against the Eagles. But after Nick Foles drove his team for a go-ahead touchdown, the Bears were forced to count on Parkey for the game-winning 43-yard attempt with 10 seconds remaining. 

Eagles coach Doug Pederson called a timeout to ice Parkey, who connected on his practice run. On the kick that mattered, Parkey hit his attempt off the left upright and bottom crossbar before it bounced out. The Bears stood by Parkey again in the aftermath, but his personal decision to appear on the "Today Show" irked those inside the organization, including coach Matt Nagy.

"We always talk about a 'we' and not a 'me' thing," Nagy said. "And we always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team. I didn't necessarily think that was too much of a 'we' thing."

O'Donnell averaged 45 yards per punt with a net average of 39.7 yards, ranking 18th and 17th, respectively. Scales was mostly consistent with his snaps, with an outlier being a high snap that led to a missed Parkey kick in the regular-season finale at Minnesota.

2019 outlook

The Bears will be seeking competition at kicker, as Pace stated clearly at the end of the difficult season for Parkey. So will there certainly be a new kicker in 2019?

Parkey still has three years remaining on his deal from last March, which pays $9 million guaranteed. The Bears still owe him $3.5 million before they can part ways. They would save nearly $1 million if they wait until after June 1 to make the move.

Robbie Gould, the Bears' all-time leading scorer who was released by the team just before the 2016 regular season, is in line to become a free agent this offseason. He has converted 82 of 85 field-goal tries (96.5 percent) since the Bears cut him and has been open about his love for Chicago.

However, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said recently on 670 The Score that his team is hopeful to re-sign Gould on a new contract.

"Robbie had a great time in Chicago," Shanahan said on the Mully & Haugh Show. "It's where he started his career. Any time you spend a lot of time somewhere, especially where your family's from, that's always going to mean a lot to you. It doesn't surprise me at all. I expect it. I also expect and am looking forward to having Robbie back in a Niners uniform next year."

The Bears won't be limited in their options for a kicker. Signing Jones to a reserve/future contract doesn't hinder their search for a veteran option. He's simply another candidate to consider instead of Parkey.

The Falcons last week made the surprising move to release kicker Matt Bryant, who hit 20 of 21 field-goal attempts in 2018. The 43-year-old Bryant has his 86.2 percent of his field goals for his career. The Bears could also look to draft a kicker such as Cole Tracy, the Lou Groza Award finalist out of LSU.

It's unclear which direction the Bears will go with their kicking position, but what's certain is Parkey has a tough task ahead if he's to return to Chicago in 2019.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​