The Chicago Bears have a lot of objectives to get through this offseason. Quarterback tops the list. Allen Robinson is next in line. After that, it becomes a debate on where they should direct their resources next. Amidst it all, people might be overlooking a critical piece of business the Bears would be wise to get done. Extending kicker Cairo Santos.
Remember him? The guy who barely registered as a blip on the radar last fall. Merely some injury insurance in case Eddy Pineiro couldn’t play to start the season. Then he proceeds to make 30-of-32 field goals on the season for the highest single-season accuracy rate in Bears history. Topping all-time fan favorite Robbie Gould. One would imagine working to keep Santos around would be pretty important.
Especially after the Dark Ages of kicking Chicago just went through.
Is GM Ryan Pace really willing to risk going back to the days of Conor Barth and Cody Parkey? That seems doubtful. The Bears need to secure their kicker long-term. Santos is only 29-years old. He has a long career ahead of him if he stays healthy. He could solidify that position for years to come. It’s a matter of figuring out the finances.
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, that is proving a bit tricky. While Santos’ season was outstanding, is it enough to justify making him one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL? What makes it even tougher is the dropping of the 2021 salary cap. Every penny the Bears spend matters this offseason, so they have to be careful.
Gano’s annual average of $4.67 million ranks second behind Justin Tucker’s $5 million, and Sanders’ $4.4 million is fourth. Nine kickers average more than $4 million per year, and 13 — nearly half the league — are above $3.5 million. Considering what the Bears signed Parkey for (four years, $15 million, $9 million guaranteed), Santos likely would seek $4 million or more per season with a guarantee in the same range.
Cairo Santos should get paid but it will be down to the wire
Now $4 million per year may not sound like a lot. Compared to some of the quarterback contracts in the NFL? It isn’t. However, for the Bears right now it is. They are still projected to be that much or a little more over the salary cap to start the offseason. Finding enough money to pay Santos will prove difficult on its own. Never mind clearing the space needed to keep Robinson and secure a viable quarterback.
Would the Bears dare let this reach free agency? Unlikely. There’s bound to be at least one team that would love to secure Cairo Santos for their own kicking situation after the year he just had. The most likely scenario is the two sides will get an extension figured out next month. It just may come uncomfortably close to the March 17th start of the league year.
That is unless Santos plays hardball.
He could demand top money, which would force their hand and let him walk. The franchise tag is possible but almost certainly reserved for Robinson at this point. All signs point to the kicker wanting to stay in Chicago. He has a good thing going here and it makes no sense to ruin it by pricing himself out of town. It will be interesting to see how things play out.