2014 NFL Off-Season: Podlesh's release gives Bears a bit more flexibility

2014 NFL Off-Season: Podlesh's release gives Bears a bit more flexibility
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The Bears decided to cut a familiar face on Wednesday.

A day after rumblings that the team had no interest to bring back kick returner Devin Hester after eight seasons in town, the Bears made a move on special teams, by releasing punter Adam Podlesh.

Podlesh still had two years remaining on his five-year, $10 million contract he signed with the Bears during the 2011 off-season. The 30-year-old punter was set to make $1.425 million this upcoming season.

The move frees up around $1.4 million in cap space, but the Bears will eat $800,000 in dead money. Podlesh's move isn't a surprise to anyone as he struggled mightily in 2013. His release marks the first for the Bears, who have re-signed nine players this off-season.

Despite breaking a franchise record with a net average (40.4 yards) in his first season with the Bears in 2011, Podlesh's numbers fell off the past two seasons.

He was put on notice after the Bears worked out six punters in the beginning of October last season. Podlesh finished 2013 with a 37.9 yard net average, which ranked 29th in the NFL and a career-low average of 40.6 yards, which ranked 15th in the NFC.

“A sincere thank you to the Bears organization and fans for the opportunity to represent a first class franchise and city,” Podlesh said on Twitter Wednesday. “One last #BearDown.”

Podlesh's season low-light came against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 on Sunday Night Football. On the opening drive of the game, the Bears went three-and-out, but then it got worse when Podlesh shanked a punt 25 yards out of bounds.

The Eagles proceeded to score on that following drive and their next two in the first quarter. The 54-11 loss in Philly dropped the Bears to 8-7 on the season and forced a Week 17 matchup against the Packers with the division on the line. We all know what happened in that one.

"P.S. I never did get that dinner with Abe Froman #thesausagekingofchicago," Podlesh later tweeted.

Tress Way and Drew Butler are the two punters currently under contract with the Bears. They both signed reserve/future contracts after the season officially ended.

Way, 23, signed with the Bears last April as an undrafted free agent. The Oklahoma product averaged 38.2 yards on six punts during the preseason, but was cut prior to the start of the season.

Butler, 24, of course is the son of Bears' all-time leading scorer Kevin Butler. He didn't play in 2013 after punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012, averaging 43.8 yards on 77 punts booted.

The Bears will likely bring another young leg into camp, but both of these strong-legged kids will likely be given serious consideration by special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and his assistants.


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