3 Free Agents Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace Should Consider Signing
By Lee Radke
3. Dwayne Harris
With All-Pro punt returner Tarik Cohen still on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, Chicago is without a clear option at punt returner. Last week in practice, there were several reports of Bears punt returners having trouble fielding punts in the wind. Not only were some punts being muffed by returners, but missed entirely due to the high winds outside at Halas Hall. In yesterday’s preseason game, Jon’Vea Johnson muffed a punt into the end zone, nearly taking a safety before barely making it back to the one-yard line.
Until Tarik Cohen is back in the lineup, handling punts could be an ongoing problem for Bears special teams. Needing to capitalize off of the short fields that are sure to be created by this star-studded defense, muffed punts, and fair catches can’t become a trend in 2021. To avoid another Ted Ginn Jr like situation at punt returner this season, signing Dwayne Harris to return punts could be a good idea for Ryan Pace.
An 11-year veteran, Harris has returned 190 punts for 1,906 yards and four touchdowns in 109 career games. Earning all-pro special teams honors for the New York Giants in 2016, Harris would bring a level of experience that Chicago is lacking at punt returner. He will be 34 years old this season, but would still be a cheap upgrade (if healthy) from any of the other guys on the Bears roster. Known for his ability to catch punts in traffic, the Bears would see the ball hit the ground much less often with Harris as the punt returner.
I know it’s early in the preseason, but the punt returner position is certainly worth keeping an eye on. A few more weeks of sloppy punt returning, and Ryan Pace may want to call up Dwayne Harris for a tryout. In a season with so much at stake for this storied franchise, I’d hate to see punts hitting the ground very regularly.