Bears Workout Punting Prospect

The Bears have made it clear they plan on creating competition for punter Brad Maynard. Team representatives recently made a trip to south to workout a punter. Find out more about the prospect inside, which also includes a scouting report.

General manager Jerry Angelo agreed with critics who expressed displeasure with punter Brad Maynard's 2005 season.

Maynard's net average of 35.3 yards was 2 yards less than he has averaged since 2001, when the Bears signed his away from the Giants as an unrestricted free agent. Maynard played in all 16 games but missed a lot of practice time with a nagging calf injury.

The nine-year veteran placed just 25 percent of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, a sharp drop from his previous career percentage of 32.7 percent. His gross average in the playoff loss to the Panthers was 35.1 yards, 7 yards less than his career average.

"It was disappointing," Angelo said. "We'll have another punter in camp. We'll look into the punting situation this year."

Maynard has five years left on his current deal with a base salary between $775,000 to $1.27 million over that time. Dropping performance coupled with a high cap number for a punter could lead the Bears to go with a younger cheaper option.

The Bears talked with punters at last month's NFL Combine, but recently took the time to scout a player who wasn't invited to Indianapolis.

University of Southern Mississippi punter Luke Johnson earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior after averaging 44.9 yards on 53 punts, with a long of 56 yards. He also averaged 60.6 yards on 72 kickoffs. The three-year starter set a career-best as a sophomore with a punt of 76 yards.

The Bears are looking to also improve on kickoffs. Johnson is an attractive option because he could also potentially replace Robbie Gould on kickoffs.

Earlier this month, the Bears traveled to Hattiesburg to workout the 6-foot-1 235-pound Johnson. ranks him as the fourth best punter in the draft, but that doesn't mean the team would have to use a selection on Johnson. Only three punters were taken in the 2005 draft, with just Tennessee's Dustin Colquitt going before the sixth round.

The Bears have one draft pick in each of the first six rounds. Their seventh round selection was sent to the Miami Dolphins as part of the trade for Brendon Ayanbadejo.

TFY Draft Preview
Underrated punter who can flip the field. Drives punts into the air, gets solid hang time and allows coverage teams to make plays down field. Can punt his team out of a jam. Effectively places punts near the goal line.

Negative: Struggles when he must quickly get the ball off his foot.

Analysis: A strong-legged kicker, Johnson's ability to handle dual roles as a punter and kickoff specialist gives him an edge for the next level.

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