Austin Fuglestad

Writer for The Bears Brawl, contributor on The Bears Brawl Podcast and Host of The Halas Hall Brawl.

Pat O’Donnell has resigned with the Bears on a contract worth $4 million over two years

 

There have been plenty differing views on the 5-year veteran. Overall, O’Donnell has had a decent career with the Bears totaling 358 punts with an average of 45 yards per attempt (40.4 Net). O’Donnell had one of his best seasons for the Bears in 2018 where he had a career best 45% of 62 punts pinning the opponent inside their own 20 yard line. This stat was tied for 10th in the NFL last season. O’Donnell also had the second-best average punt yards of his career with 45 (career best is 47 yards in 2017).

Another promising stat from Pat O’Donnell can be found in his total punt attempts for the season. Pat attempted 62 punts in 2018 which was 25 punts less than 2017. That stat alone shows the Bears overall improvement on 3rd down conversions. The Bears’ improvement on the offensive side of the ball helped to keep the punting unit off the field. 62 is also the least amount of punt attempts in O’Donnell’s career with his previous low being 70.

On the downside, Pat had the worst touch back percentage of his career at 11.3% (previous worst was 6.9%). This can probably be contributed to the fact that O’Donnell had to punt a lot from closer to the opponent’s end-zone than in previous years. Furthermore, even though the 45-yard punt average is the second best of his career, it was the 21st ranked average in the NFL last season.

Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

 

I am not a huge fan of resigning O’Donnell, I thought Pace would want to do an entire clean house of the key special teams’ players after last season. I also feel like we could have signed a cheaper UDFA after the draft, like Mitch Wishenewsky out of Utah. However, it is tough to fully depend on a rookie punter who has never kicked at Soldier Field before. With the not-so-talented free agent punting class, O’Donnell was one of the best options available and Ryan Pace mentioned at the combine that he is happy with O’Donnell. O’Donnell also now has five years of experience kicking at Soldier Field which, in my opinion, is one of the toughest places for special teams to play in the NFL. Having that experience is big and Pat will only get better. He doesn’t have the strongest leg, but with the resurgence of the offense and one of the best defenses in the league, Pat shouldn’t have to kick out of his end-zone too many times. This means he will mainly be punting to pin an opponent deep in their own territory, a skill that has seen improvement from O’Donnell over the years.

 

All in all, with the offense improving, the defense being one of the best in the league, and O’Donnell’s ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory improving, I feel like this is ultimately a fine resign by the Bears. With a big season, O’Donnell can help excel the Bears to the next level.