GREEN BAY — A day after dropping punter Corey Bojorquez, the Green Bay Packers replaced him with former Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell.
According to NFL Network, the Packers have agreed to terms with O’Donnell, who has been the Bears’ punter for the past eight seasons. A source said it was a two-year deal worth $4 million.
The Packers opted not to re-sign Bojorquez, who was an unrestricted free agent, because his performance plummeted in cold weather and his kicking ability was part of the reason kicker Mason Crosby struggled.
Three other teams were in the running for O’Donnell, including the Bears, according to a source. But the Packers seemed determined to have him be their punter this year and made a strong push
Last year, the 31-year-old O’Donnell averaged 46.2 yards per punt in 2021, which was just below Bojorquez’s raw average of 46.5. His 38.5 net average ranked below Bojorquez’s 40.0, but he landed one more punt inside the 20 (19) than Bojorquez.
O’Donnell’s performance in away games in December last year was essentially the same as during the warm months. He averaged 45.5, 53.7 and 45.4 yards in three December games at Soldier Field, which is a notoriously tough place to kick due to the lake’s swirling winds.
He also averaged 46.3 in Green Bay in Week 14 and 45 in Seattle in Week 16.
Bojorquez was inconsistent in the cold, averaging 42.7, 47 and 31.5 in games at Lambeau Field in December and 48.67 in Baltimore in a game in December. His net averages in his last six regular season games were 39.8, 10.0, 42.0, 41.8, 21.5 and 35.
O’Donnell, a sixth-round pick by the Bears in 2014, threw 62 times for 2,865 yards with a length of 72 yards last year. His career averages are 45.1 gross and 39.3 net.
Almost as important as his punt is that O’Donnell has been the Bears’ starter for his entire career. In the past two seasons, kicker Cairo Santos has scored 56 out of 62 goals from the field.
Bojorquez had to deal with bad long smacks from Hunter Bradley and Steve Wirtel, but there were times when a more skilled starter could have put the ball up despite a bad smack. The whole operation was a mess for most of the season and Bojorquez wasn’t the only reason Crosby scored just 25 of 34 field goals and missed two extra points.
The Packers traded a sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams before the start of last season, receiving Bojorquez and a seventh-round pick in return. Bojorquez, who nearly won a positional battle in Los Angeles against four-time All-Pro Justin Hekker, replaced former fifth-round pick JK Scott.
The change paid significant early dividends. In 12 games, Bojorquez, a left-footed punter who could pop the ball when he was at his best, ranked fourth in the NFL with 43.8 net yards per punt.
Bojorquez has fallen heavily in the last six games, counting the playoffs. He finished 18th in the NFL with 40 net yards per punt. Then came the NFC Divisional Round against the San Francisco 49ers, when Bojorquez’s blocked punt late in the fourth quarter tied the game, eventually becoming the signature collapse in a shocking loss.
Continued: Aaron Rodgers’ pricey contract gives Packers three-year Super Bowl window
Continued: Aaron Rodgers’ salary cap falls to $28 million
Bojorquez had several destinations to choose from for his next team after losing the competition to Hekker last year. Bojorquez said he finally asked the Packers to take the challenge to throw inside Lambeau Field. Now he will be looking for a new team for the second year in a row.
EQ output further undercuts Packers receiving body
The Packers’ receiver position keeps getting refined.
Equanimeous St. Brown, the Packers’ former 2018 sixth-round pick, is signing with the Bears, a source confirmed to PackersNews. St. Brown is the second former Packers player to sign with the Bears this week, joining offensive lineman Lucas Patrick. The two will join former Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, who left Green Bay to become the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
The Athletic was the first to report that St. Brown was signing with the Bears.
St. Brown’s departure continues to shrink an already shallow Packers receiving group. The Packers could also lose Marquez Valdes-Scantling after the 2018 fifth-round pick became an unrestricted free agent this week.
The Packers used a franchise tag on All-Pro Davante Adams, placed a second-round bid on Allen Lazard, and retained Randall Cobb with a pay cut. None are under contract in 2023.
The only receiver on the Packers roster under contract beyond this season is Amari Rodgers, a third-round pick last season.
Packer assistants get promotions
A day into the new NFL year, Packers coach Matt LaFleur announced a wave of changes to his coaching staff.
LaFleur promoted defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery to defensive line/running play coordinator and assistant defensive backs coach Ryan Downard to safety coach.
He also hired Ramsen Golpashin as Offensive Quality Control Coach, Quinshon Odom as Assistant Coach (Minority Fellow), and Michael Spurlock as Special Teams Quality Control Coach.
Montgomery, entering his eighth season with the Packers, was originally hired by former head coach Mike McCarthy as a defensive assistant. He has served as the Packers’ defensive line coach for the past four seasons. This is the first time that he has had the title of coordinator attached to his duties.
Downard was hired by LaFleur in 2019 as an assistant defensive backs coach. His promotion gives the Packers a coach specifically focused on safety. Jerry Gray, who was hired as the defensive backs/passing games coordinator ahead of the 2020 season, will continue in his role as the coverage programs leader.
Golpashin was hired from UCLA, where he was the defensive line analyst and offensive graduate assistant.
Odom previously worked for the Packers’ player personnel department in 2018. He was a graduate offensive line assistant last season at the University of Texas.
Spurlock was a senior analyst at Ole Miss for the past two seasons.