Bears sign Connor Barth as new kicker

ByJeff Dickerson ESPN logo
Monday, September 5, 2016

CHICAGO -- The Bears have signed free-agent kicker Connor Barth to replace 11-year veteran Robbie Gould, whom the team released Sunday night.

General manager Ryan Pace announced Barth's signing during a news conference Monday.

"For us it was if a specific player comes available, and we know that we're able to acquire that player, then that's something we need to entertain and discuss," Pace said. "So that's kind of how it played out, when we knew this guy [Barth] would be available for us, it made the switch a possibility.

"John [Fox] and I met with [Gould] face to face late last night and I just think those conversations are very personal and I think it's important to do it face to face. I think it's important to do with both of us and I'll just leave it at that."

Barth will sign a one-year deal with the Bears, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The 30-year-old Barth spent the preseason in New Orleans before being cut by the Saints over the weekend. In 12 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, Barth went 23-of-28 on field goal attempts. He kicked five games for the Denver Broncos in 2014, under then-head coach Fox.

"I think we have a background with this player you know," Pace said. "The Denver coaches that are on our staff now had him in Denver for one season. And then just all ... we've evaluated him for years and he's a guy that's overcome an injury. He's an experienced kicker. He's kicked in big games. If you look at his, especially under 40 yards, he's extremely accurate and there's a sureness to it that I expect."

Gould is the Bears' all-time franchise leader in career points (1,207), field goals made (276) and career field goals of 50 yards or more (23). He had been the longest-tenured player on the Bears' roster.

The 34-year-old Gould is the ninth-most-accurate kicker in league history. He also owns the NFL's third-best field goal percentage from 50 yards or longer.

Sunday on Twitter, he thanked the fans and organization.

Gould, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots, was named All-Pro in 2006, helping the Bears on their march to Super Bowl XLI with a game-winning field goal in overtime in the NFC divisional playoffs against Seattle. Gould has 12 game-winning kicks over his 11-year career.

However, Gould suffered through a frustrating 2015 season. Although he connected on 33 of 39 field goal attempts (84.6 percent) in 2015, Gould hit a bumpy stretch late in the year when he went a combined 2-for-5 in gut-wrenching losses to San Francisco and Washington.

Determined to bounce back, Gould embarked on a new training and nutritional regimen in the offseason and reported to camp at a heavier weight after he gained muscle mass. While Gould went 5-for-6 on field goals in the preseason, he failed to convert two PATs in the Bears' preseason finale at Cleveland.

Gould was scheduled to earn a $3 million base salary in 2016, part of the lucrative four-year extension he signed in 2013. He already collected a $500,000 roster bonus on the first day of the league year.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.