According to a source close to the player, the Chicago Bears have informed the team’s long-tenured punter Brad Maynard, currently a free agent, that he will not be offered a contract this offseason, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure.
The 37-year-old Maynard has been kicking in Chicago since 2001 and has proven to be one of the best directional punters in the game. Three times the past 10 years he has led all NFL punters in punts inside the opponent 20-yard line.
Yet his control is tempered by a serious lack of power. Since 2001, he has placed in the Top 10 in the league just once in average yards per punt. The results have gotten increasingly worse the past four seasons. From 2007-2010, Maynard has finished 22nd, 30th, 28th and 32nd respectively. His performance last season (40.1 yards per kick) was the worst in the NFL.
He was coming off hip surgery heading into the 2010 campaign and it’s expected some of his power will return. Yet the Bears are obviously turning the page on Maynard. It’s likely the team made this decision months ago, presumably around the time the front office signed punter Richmond McGee to a futures contract in early February.
McGee has been a member of the team’s practice squad off and on the past two years. He signed a two-year contract with the team having never officially punted a ball in an NFL game. As such, it’s highly likely Chicago will bring at least one more punter to training camp to compete for the starting position. There are a handful of quality veterans on the market, including former Raven Sam Koch and former Jaguar Adam Podlesh.
Yet the player many believe the front office is targeting is seven-year veteran Steve Weatherford, who played for the N.Y. Jets the past two seasons. His 42.6 yards-per-punt average in 2010 doesn’t indicate a strong leg, yet he did lead the league in punts inside the 20 last year. It’s an interesting situation to monitor as we head into training camp, especially considering the importance Chicago places on its special teams.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.