Lovie Smith has been interested in finding a replacement for Edinger since he hit on just 15 of 24 field goal attempts during the 2004 season.
Two undrafted free agents were signed, but Edinger’s tenure in Chicago basically ended when Doug Brien signed a one-year deal with the Bears on May 12th.
Edinger asked to be released following the addition of Brien, but the Bears figured they would take one last look at the merchandise before making a decision.
The most interesting part of the three-day mini-camp came during the kicking portion of practice. Edinger and Brien squared off each of the three das with neither pulling away from the competition.
During Sunday’s practice it was obviously who the team wanted as their placekicker. Players heckled Brien, Tyler Jones and Nick Novak on their attempts, while Edinger got silence during his kicks.
“I would be disappointed if it wasn’t that way,” said special teams coach Dave Toub after Sunday’s practice. “Edinger has been to war with these guys for years. They’re not just going to give up on their guy.”
However, the Bears decided to let Edinger pursue other opportunities.
“We feel good about the direction of our kicking position and Paul will have the opportunity to join another team’s off-season program well before training camp,” said GM Jerry Angelo.
The official announcement came about an hour after the mini-camp ended, but Lovie Smith gave a clue to what the team’s intentions were during his press conference.
“They’re (the kickers) starting to clear up a lot for us and hopefully we’ll be able to make some decisions pretty quick,” Smith said.
Edinger leaves the organization fifth on the all-time scoring list with 463 points. His 75.3 percent conversion rate on field goals is the second most accurate in team history.
Originally selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, Edinger led the team in scoring during each of the five seasons. During that stretch, the Michigan State product led the NFL with 53 field goals of 40 or more yards, while being successful on all 133 of his career extra point attempts.
“We appreciate Paul’s contributions to our team over the last five seasons,” Angelo said. “With the addition of Doug Brien to our roster, and watching him and our two rookies over this weekend’s mini-camp, we felt comfortable granting Paul’s request to be released.”
Ultimately the decision came down to the fact that over the last 24 games, Edinger has converted 24 of 43 field goal attempts. He was also due to make a base salary of $1.1 million and had three years left on a five-year $7 million contract.
There is a good chance the Bears will see Edinger end up with a division rival. The Minnesota Vikings signed Edinger as a restricted free agent in 2002, which is the same contract the Bears terminated.
It now appears that the competition is over and Brien has been handed the job.
“At this point I’m just worried about getting myself into rhythm and making kicks and getting ready for the season, so I’m not putting a whole lot of energy into worrying about things I can’t control,” Brien said the day before Edinger was cut. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I had a good chance.”