INDIANAPOLIS – Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy spoke to the media during separate sessions Wednesday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Here are three things we learned from their press conferences:
(1) The Bears intend to release kicker Cody Parkey when the new league year begins March 13.
Nagy was first to confirm the news Wednesday during an early appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” The Bears coach told host Peter Schrager: “That’s a position where you’ve got to make kicks, and Cody understands that. We’ve talked to Cody and Cody knows that we’re going to go ahead and go in a different direction. It was a good talk, it was a healthy talk. He took it like a true professional and we respect that. We wish him the best and we’re going to do our best to put ourselves in a good position.”
Parkey missed 11 kicks in his first year with the Bears in 2018, converting 23-of-30 field-goal attempts (76.7 percent) and 42-of-45 extra-point tries (93.3) in the regular season. He made 3-of-4 field goal attempts in a 16-15 wild-card loss to the Eagles. But his miss came on a 43-yarder with :05 remaining that could have given the Bears an 18-16 victory. Six of his missed kicks hit the goalpost, including the potential game-winner against Philadelphia.
“It’s really performance-based at the end of the day,” Pace said. “Matt and I wanted to call him before the Combine and be honest with him. We had a good conversation with him, an honest conversation with him. He’s such a pro. He’s such a good guy. It was just really honest back-and-forth, really transparent back-and-forth. We wanted to do it before the Combine and it was good. I think he understood.”
The Bears signed former Tulsa kicker Redford Jones to a reserve/future contract Jan. 28 and will—according to Pace—continue to “explore all avenues” to upgrade the position during the offseason.
(2) Coming off a 12-4 division championship-winning season, Pace feels more pressure entering this offseason than he did a year ago after the Bears went 5-11.
“Just being honest with you, I feel more,” Pace said. “I feel like, ‘Hey, we put ourselves in the position and you’re never staying the same. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse.’ We want to make sure we are getting better.”
This offseason figures to be more challenging for Pace because the Bears have less salary cap space and fewer draft picks than they’ve had in recent years. The Bears won’t pick until the third round this year because they dealt their first- and sixth-round picks to the Raiders as part of the blockbuster Khalil Mack trade and sent their second-round choice to the Patriots to move up to select receiver Anthony Miller in the second round of last year’s draft.
“I just feel like, ‘Hey, you never want to revert, right?’” Pace said. “The expectations are high, and we want that; they should be high. I think we know with the amount of draft picks we have and the cap space, this is where we make our hay as scouts and evaluators, and we’re up for the challenge.”
The good news is that the Bears are in a much better position this offseason. They have 21 of 22 starters under contract, with strong safety Adrian Amos the lone exception. And they don’t have a pressing need at a key position like they did a year ago when they revamped their entire receiving corps by signing Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel in free agency and drafting Miller.
“We’re good,” Pace said. “We knew going into this that the cap space was going to be a little bit more limited than it has been in years past. Obviously, we forecasted for that and planned for that. But we can still accomplish our offseason goals and we have a plan in action for that.”
(3) The agreement that was reached earlier this week to restructure Kyle Long’s contract will benefit both the Bears and the veteran lineman.
“It’s really a credit to Kyle,” Pace said, “a testament to him, the person he is, the player he is. He speaks to our culture and we’re happy to have Kyle long-term.”
Selected by the Bears with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Oregon, Long was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons while starting 47 of 48 games. The 6-6, 320-pounder has struggled with injuries the past three years, however, missing 22 of 48 contests, including eight last season.
Pace acknowledged that it isn’t easy to approach a player about restructuring his deal, saying: “Obviously, any contract discussion is sensitive. We go into it with a mindset of, ‘Can we create a win/win situation?’ That’s the best thing that can happen, and I felt like we did that with Kyle. We’re excited that he’s here and he’s excited to be here and that’s a long-term thing.”
Pace declined to reveal whether the Bears would attempt to restructure the contracts of other players.
“Those are the internal conversations that we’re always having,” he said. “And we’re always mindful, too, of potential extensions down the road as well.”