INDIANAPOLIS — In what was called a "good" and "honest" conversation last week, the Bears informed maligned PK Cody Parkey of his impending release when the new league year opens on March 13.
And in an honest-as-can-be chat with the local media at the scouting combine Wednesday, Ryan Pace vowed after making the "performance-based" decision on Parkey to solve this offseason arguably his biggest riddle to date as an NFL general manager.
"Explore every avenue," Pace explained of his plan to stabilize among the Bears' wobbliest positions since dumping franchise scoring leader Robbie Gould after Pace's first season in Chicago.
Pace wouldn't get into specifics on much Wednesday, including what he learned from the ill-advised release of Gould and big free-agent whiff on Parkey, who will earn $3.5 million from the Bears not to kick next for them next season. Pace did confirm the Bears will designate Parkey's release as post-June 1, allowing them to spread out the cap hits over the next two seasons.
He also conceded when asked what he learned from the Gould gaffe that, "since then, you know, we've been battling to get that position right. Our goal this offseason is to correct that, and we will."
Leg strength will be a big point of emphasis, Pace said, after four of Parkey's seven misses (on 30 total attempts) came from beyond 40 yards out. Pace also stressed that the Bears will prioritize "mental toughness," "confidence" and "what type of adversity" prospective kickers endured in life, of obvious importance in evaluating the position overall but of particular relevance given Parkey's unfortunate upright adventures culminating in the wild-card round "double doink" defeat.
The Bears also plan to emphasize competition, so one can fully expect young Redford Jones, who was signed in January, to have company this spring and summer — whether it's from a draft pick, college and/or pro free agent. The Bears said generally kicker battles consist of two men but wouldn't rule out expanding the field.
Pace explained it'll be a collective effort within his personnel and coaching staffs to make the decision but singled out special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor and area scout Breck Ackley, who kicked collegiately at Southern University, to point out the range of backgrounds he'll lean on.
Ultimately, Pace said that he's had to be honest with himself in an effort to avoid missing on the evaluation again.
"I think we are honest with all of those decisions, and obviously [Gould's] with another team now, so we can’t discuss it," he said. "But I think we only get better if you analyze every decision you’ve made, you know what I mean? We’re not going to be 100 percent all the time, you know. I think you’re honest with your assessments and learn from those things and get better from it."
The Long view
Kyle Long had his contract restructured earlier this week, giving the Bears additional cap relief and him the ability to potentially play his entire career with the same organization. Pace wouldn't confirm reports that Long agreed to a pay cut saving the Bears $3 million in 2019 cap room but lauded Long's team-first mentality.
"I think it’s really a credit to Kyle, a testament to him, the person he is, the player he is," Pace said. "I think he speaks to our culture, and we’re happy to have Kyle long term."
By contrast, Long's sidekick on the right side of the O-line, Bobby Massie, signed a four-year extension last month.
“I think continuity with our offensive line is critical. And especially with the offensive tackles. Bobby’s done nothing but get better and better with each year, and, I think, especially under [O-line coach] Harry Hiestand’s guidance. So we’re encouraged to have him back and just have continuity on our offensive line.”
Odds and ends
The Bears will participate in the NFL's international series for the first time since 2011 when Khalil Mack and Co. clash with Jon Gruden's Raiders in London. Though nothing has been finalized, as is customary, the Bears would prefer to request their bye week immediately following the trip. ... After Long's contract adjustment, the Bears have roughly $14.5 million in cap space. Pace said it wouldn't preclude them from potentially signing both priority free agents — nickel CB Bryce Callahan and S Adrian Amos — and accomplishing their other offseason goals. He said the Bears will be mindful not only about more potential contract restructures but contract extensions.