Chicago recently signed punter Richmond McGee to a two-year contract. This move looks to put an end to Brad Maynard's fourth-down duties as a Bear. Maynard, 37, spent 10 productive years in the navy and orange. He has often been compared to retired punter Jeff Feagles -- a kicker with limited power but outstanding accuracy.
While Maynard has never been at the top of the league in average yards per punt, he currently sits second all-time in the NFL with 407 punts inside the 20-yard line, behind only Feagle's 554. Unfortunately, he endured one of his worst seasons as a professional in 2010, finishing 32nd in the league with 40.1 yards per punt and 29th in net average (35.2).
Those numbers are somewhat justifiable though, considering Maynard was recovering from right hip surgery conducted in January of last year, which only allowed him time for simple rehab leading up to the season. He said he could not even walk correctly until nearly eight weeks after the surgery.
P Richmond McGee
Yet this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and when a 37-year-old, who is now up for free agency, begins to show signs of sliding, most teams opt to move on. And so it was with the Bears and its signing of 27-year-old McGee.
McGee played four years at Texas University as a punter and kickoff specialist, as well as handling part-time field goal duties. He was first signed briefly in 2008 by the Philadelphia Eagels, then spent time on the Chicago practice squad at different points in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
With no real NFL experience to fall back on, it's hard to say what McGee's strengths and weaknesses are. Yet the fact he handled kickoff duties in college most likely played a strong part in Chicago's decision to sign him. Robbie Gould is not known for his booming kickoffs and Lovie Smith puts a premium on field position. If McGee has the leg to lengthen the field for opposing teams, he value really increases.
And lets not forget the factor that plays into every personnel decision: money. Maynard's base pay last year was $1.27 million. The Bears would have had to pay him at least that much per season going forward. Yet McGee, an unproven kicker being given his first opportunity to kick in the NFL, will come far cheaper.
If McGee steps in and immediately starts booming the ball all over the field on punts and kickoffs, he'll be worth the contract. Yet it's a big risk considering the sure thing they decided to let go.
Feagles coined the term "coffin corner" for his ability to stick punts out of bounds near the goal line -- a skill also in abundance with Maynard. Bears brass are hoping that by letting go of the savvy veteran, they won't be pinning themselves in a corner.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.