The Chicago Bears headed into training camp with one of the most intriguing position battles around the league at kicker, and it appears Eddy Pineiro may have won the competition against fellow unknown commodity Elliott Fry.
Cody Parkey’s blocked field goal, which would have given the Chicago Bears a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs, still haunts fans to this day. In the aftermath of Parkey’s infamous miss, the Bears even opened up their kicking competition to the public, and they headed into the offseason with a question mark at arguably the most important position on special teams.
Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry entered training camp as the two men competing for the starting kicking job in Chicago, and, unless if a veteran kicker is promptly signed, it appears Pineiro has emerged victorious in the head-to-head competition.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Bears have released Fry, leaving Pineiro as the only kicker on the roster. But Schefter warned fans that this doesn’t necessarily mean Pineiro has been given the job.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport echoed a similar sentiment, informing fans that he expects the Bears to remain interested in signing a kicker.
However, the Bears should give Pineiro a shot. Although he’s a relative unknown, he actually has a legitimate kicking resume at the collegiate level. Whereas Fry had no collegiate stats at South Carolina and recently missed a 47-yard field goal, Pineiro hasn’t done anything to hurt his case in Chicago after a nifty career for the Florida Gators.
In college, Pineiro missed just two extra points in 58 attempts and had a career 88.4 field goal percentage. His 94.4 percent field goal mark in his final collegiate season in 2017 led every kicker in the nation. Furthermore, while Pineiro has never kicked a regular season field goal in the NFL, he intrigued the Bears enough that they traded for him from the Oakland Raiders in May in exchange for a 2021 seventh-round pick.
That pick is basically as close to nothing as it gets, but they still gave up a full draft choice — not just a swap — for Pineiro. Since he had a solid career in college and hasn’t hurt his chances this August, the Bears might as well roll with him.
Signing a veteran is always possible during the regular season, so the Bears can tap into that well later in the year if Pineiro turns out to be just as incompetent as Parkey. But it’s better to stick by Pineiro and boost his confidence earlier in the season, since the young kicker will need those reps and experience later in the season in those high-pressured playoff games. The Bears have serious Super Bowl aspirations due to their playmakers on offense and their elite defense, so special teams miscues can easily be their worst enemy again.
It’s better to see what Pineiro can do, save some money, get him some experience in the early regular season games that don’t receive as much pressure from the fans, and then work from there.
If the Bears weren’t enthralled with the veteran options available earlier this offseason, then it’s unlikely someone significantly better than Pineiro is out there. And if Pineiro turns out to be a flop, then the Bears can always find a middling veteran kicker to pay in the winter.