Bears Sign Rookie Punter Tory Taylor

The Bears signed fourth-round draft choice Tory Taylor to a four-year deal on Saturday, the team announced.

Taylor, who starred for the Iowa Hawkeyes, is the third-earliest punter taken in Bears common draft history. The Bears selected Chris Gardocki in the third round in 1991. They also chose Todd Sauerbrun in the second round back in 1995. Both were All-Pros, with Gardocki winning a Super Bowl and Sauerbrun going to multiple Pro Bowls. None of those accolades came while with the Bears, however. GM Ryan Poles hopes to change that.

“Really excited about Tory,” Poles said after picking Taylor. “One of the best punters I’ve ever seen, just in terms of his placement as well as his leg strength to be able to flip the field.”

Poles doubled down during his appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.

“I didn’t expect him to get much further. Definitely didn’t think I’d be able to pick him up when we got into the fifth round,” Poles said. “And, really, the thought process there is to make anyone we’re playing really uncomfortable. I didn’t play much in the NFL, but I know running onto the field and having the ball spotted inside the 10-yard line is a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s disheartening at times. And I love taking advantage of field position. And, really, that should help us with points, as well.

Taylor thought he would be drafted higher.

“I kind of thought I may have gone a little bit earlier to a couple of other teams,” Taylor said this week on The Sick Podcast with Adam Rank. “A few special teams coaches rung and texted me on the day saying, ‘Hey, really hope you’re a such and such once the day ends.’ And I kind of thought, oh, don’t just say it let’s make it happen. But a lot of the time, it’s really up to I guess the GM and things like that and whoever makes those sort of calls, but, at the end of the day if they wanted me they should’ve come and got me.

“But I’m glad they didn’t because I’m [with] the Bears now. It’s perfect.”

Taylor appeared in 49 games the past four seasons for the Hawkeyes, averaging 46.3 yards on 295 punts, placing 127 inside the 20 with 32 touchbacks. He also won the Ray Guy Award his senior year, given to college football’s best punter. He also set NCAA single-season punting records last year with 4,479 yards and a 48.2-yard average.

No punter was allowed to ply his craft more in recent years than Taylor thanks to Iowa’s struggling offense. He has impressive leg power and his hang time is fairly solid. He needs work on his directional punting but did carry a middle-round grade coming into this draft. Taylor will replace Trenton Gill, who was dead last in average net yards last season.

“Tory is a weapon for the whole football team,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after the draft. “The punt and pins are huge. This guy is a big talent, so we’re excited to have him.”

The Bears selected Taylor with the No. 122 overall pick as part of an impressive draft, even with only five selections. Quarterback Caleb Williams was the headline selection at No. 1 overall, but Chicago also landed star receiver Rome Odunze with the No. 9 pick. Taylor is the first member of the team’s 2024 draft class to sign his rookie contract.

The value of Taylor’s deal will max out at $4,780,061, according to Spotrac. The punter was a polarizing selection among fans and analysts alike. Taylor drew praises from Mel Kiper Jr., however.

“I think, when you look, the key picks are the fourth round, taking Tory Taylor — punter from Iowa,” Kiper recently said on ESPN. “We know he’s got a great leg. We know he was a critical entity for Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes. He can flip field position. That’s a critical thing in the NFL. So I think, when you look at Tory Taylor, he’s going to determine a lot.”

Williams also commented on Taylor’s selection during the draft. According to Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic, Taylor said the No. 1 overall pick out of USC texted him: “Hey, you’re not going to punt too much here.”

If Williams is everything analysts believe he is, then Taylor will feel like Chicago is a vacation, at least compared to Iowa. He had the most punts in the FBS in 2023 and still ranked fourth in average yards per punt. The Bears prefer quality over quantity, however. Williams and his offensive weapons will keep Taylor’s leg fresh throughout the season.

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