The divorce seemed likely the minute Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field- goal attempt pinballed from the upright to the crossbar and landed on the Soldier Field turf, ending the Bears’ first-round playoff loss in January. It became inevitable eight days later, when Bears coach Matt Nagy said he found the kicker’s look-at-me appearance on the “Today” show to be inappropriate.
Friday, the Bears set the separation in motion. They will release Parkey at the start of the league year March 13, sources confirmed, ending an expensive one-year stint that saw him miss eight field goals and three extra points.
The Bears, who gave Parkey a four-year, $15 million contract 11 months ago, will pay him $3.5 million this year to kick elsewhere. The Bears will carry Parkey’s cap hit of $5,187,500 in 2019.
The clarity afforded by the move allows Parkey’s representation to gauge new employment for him when teams and agents gather at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The Bears, who signed rookie Redford Jones in late January, will explore the market for veteran kicking replacements and scout potential draft picks.
Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould told the Sun-Times earlier this month “there’s a mutual understanding of wanting to go back” to the 49ers, who could either give him the franchise tag or a multi-year contract. If Gould becomes a free agent, the Bears could explore a reunion with the player they cut before the 2016 season.
Last month, general manager Ryan Pace called the kicker a “position of emphasis” for the Bears.
“We understand we need to get better, get more production out of that position,” said Pace, who, along with Nagy, will speak at next week’s combine. “Matt talks about it all the time: There’s so much parity in our league, so many close games, the kicker position is critical.”
Whoever takes Parkey’s place will have a hard time turning in a more eventful season.
Parkey hit the uprights on four misses — two extra points and two field goals — Nov. 11 against the Lions. That prompted him to practice at Soldier Field, an old Gould trick, for the first time three days later. Traffic helicopters hovered over his nighttime practice session. It worked: He made three field goals the next week against the Vikings and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Parkey hit another upright on an extra-point miss against the Vikings in the season finale. That portended his double-doink field goal miss the next week, when Eagles defensive lineman Treyvon Hester tipped Parkey’s miss with 10 seconds left in the 16-15 wild-card loss.
Parkey appeared on NBC’s “Today” show the following Friday, a five-minute tribute to his upstanding, sky-pointing reaction to the miss. At one point, “Today” host Savannah Guthrie gushed: “I think they should have MHPs — Most Honorable Player.”
Nagy was angered by Parkey’s morning-show appearance, saying the kicker didn’t mention it to him during their exit interview.
“For me, you understand that we always talk about a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’ thing,” he said last month. “And we always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team.
“You know, I just, I didn’t necessarily think that that was too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
NOTE: The Bears won’t receive a compensatory pick in this year’s draft, continuing a trend that reached its 10th consecutive year. On Friday, the NFL announced compensatory picks, which are awarded to teams that lose more value in free agency than they bring back. The Bears have received 17 compensatory picks since 1994. Only five teams can claim less; two of those, the Texans and Browns, came into existence after 1994.