Before the start of training camp, GM Phil Emery stated that the Bears had no plans to do contract extensions during the 2013 season, whether for Jay Cutler or any of the more than two dozen players coming out of contract this season.
That policy statement did not sit well with kicker Robbie Gould, the Bears’ player rep and one of those with a contract expiring at season’s end.
"I'm not too worried about it if they will re-sign me or not because I have all the leverage," Gould said in an ESPN radio interview. "If they don't want to re-sign me now it's going to cost them double at the end of the year.”
It didn’t appear to end up costing the Bears double, and both sides clearly harbored no hard feelings long-term. Gould’s agent Brian Mackler placed a call to the Bears on Monday to explore a possible extension, and the two sides came to an agreement on a four-year deal worth $15 million, with $9 million guaranteed, as reported by Pro Football Talk.
The agreement keeps the most accurate kicker in franchise history right where he wanted to be all along.
“If I’m going to hold a trophy up, I want to hold it up with the Chicago Bears,” Gould said. “At the end of the day, I couldn’t see myself playing in another jersey. I’d just look funny in another color I think.
“It means a lot. It means a lot to be in one jersey. It means a lot to continue your career in one jersey. There are not a lot of players in the National Football League that can say they finished their career all with one team or scored 1,000 points with one team. It’s just unheard of.”
Gould entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State, going in 2005 to the New England Patriots who still had Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri. He was cut by the Patriots, then by the Baltimore Ravens as well before winning a kicking competition in October 2005 to replace Doug Brien. Gould was working construction at the time the Bears called, and he did not waste the third NFL chance.
“The Bears gave me my first (real) opportunity,” Gould said. “There was a lot that went into getting here before that happens, being cut twice to figuring out ‘You’re only supposed to be here for a few weeks and kick extra points, to becoming a Pro Bowl’er to playing in a Super Bowl to becoming the highest-paid kicker in the history of the National Football League, to the third-highest field goal kicker.”
The move was not a reversal of direction by Emery, simply an action to take advantage of where the Bears found themselves with some available money and a player they considered a linchpin of their longer-term plan.
“As we worked through the year, as we got closer to the end of the season, we realized that we were going to have some leftover space on our cap,” Emery said. “We kept an open mind throughout the course of the year to listening and talking to people.
“I announced at the beginning of the year that we weren’t inclined to sign extensions, and that primarily was about our cap space at the time. We also wanted to very much focus in on the current season and not have it detracted in terms of players’ focus due to the number of contracts that we had up to get sideways on what the most important mission is to win a championship.”
Gould, who led Bears relief efforts to help tornado victims in Washington, Ill., earlier this month, made no secret of his desire to stay a Bear. And his deal takes care of a significant re-signing for the organization ahead of the open-market time of free agency, allowing the Bears to address other critical personnel needs.
“If the deal’s fair, I’m not going to go out and piss and moan over a couple hundred thousand dollars,” Gould said. “That’s just not me.”
Hitting 86 percent (234-of-272) of his field goal attempts over his nine-year career, Gould is the most accurate kicker in Bears history and ranks third all-time in NFL history. He currently is on pace to tie his own mark for the best single-season field-goal percentage in team history connecting on 89.7 percent of his kicks this year (26-of-29). Gould established that mark in 2008 and currently owns the top seven single-season field goal percentages in franchise records.
Between 2005 and 2006 he also set a team-record with 26 straight field goals made. He has connected on at least 20 field goals in all nine of his seasons, 25 in six of them and a team record 32 in 2006 when he was elected to the Pro Bowl.
Gould’s accuracy beyond 50 yards has made him one of the NFL’s elite. He shares the NFL record with 12 consecutive kicks of 50 or more yards made. For his career he has hit 16 of 21 field goals (76.2 percent) from 50 yards or farther, including makes on 13 of his last 14 and a team record 58-yard field goal in Week 1 this season versus Cincinnati.
Gould has 11 game-winning kicks including a 38-yarder this year to defeat Baltimore in Week 11. Nine of the game-winning boots have come at Soldier Field, one of the more challenging stadiums for NFL kickers.