GREEN BAY – A day after dropping punter Corey Bojorquez, the Green Bay Packers have replaced him with former Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell.
According to NFL Network, the Packers agreed to terms with O’Donnell, who has been the Bears’ punter for the last eight seasons. A source said it was a two-year deal worth $4 million.
The Packers chose not to re-sign Bojorquez, who was an unrestricted free agent, because his performance plummeted in cold weather and his holding on place kicks was part of the reason kicker Mason Crosby struggled.
Three other teams were bidding for O’Donnell, including the Bears, according to a source. But the Packers appeared to be committed to him being their punter this year and made a strong push
Last year, O’Donnell, 31, averaged 46.2 yards per punt in 2021, which ranked just below Bojorquez’s gross average of 46.5. His net average of 38.5 ranked below Bojorquez’s 40.0, but he landed one more punt inside the 20 (19) than Bojorquez.
O’Donnell’s performance in outdoor December games last year was essentially the same as it was during warm weather 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 punt because of swirling winds from the lake.
He also averaged 46.3 at Green Bay in Week 14 and 45 at Seattle in Week 16.
Bojorquez was inconsistent in the cold, averaging 42.7, 47 and 31.5 in Lambeau Field December games and 48.67 at Baltimore in a December game. 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, punted 62 times for 2,865 yards with a long of 72 yards last year. His career averages are 45.1 gross and 39.3 net.
Almost as important as his punting was that O’Donnell served as the Bears’ holder his entire career. The past two seasons kicker Cairo Santos was a combined 56 of 62 on field goals.
Bojorquez had to deal with poor long snapping from Hunter Bradley and Steve Wirtel, but there were times when a more skilled holder would have been able to get the ball into place despite a bad snap. The entire operation was a mess for most of the season and Bojorquez wasn’t the only reason Crosby only connected on 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 almost won a position battle in LA against four-time All-Pro Justin Hekker, replaced former fifth-round pick JK Scott.
The change paid significant early dividends. Through 12 games, Bojorquez, a left-footed punter who could boom the ball when at his best, ranked fourth in the NFL with 43.8 net yards per punt
Bojorquez fell off steeply in the final six games, counting 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 score, eventually becoming the signature meltdown in a shocking loss.
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There were multiple destinations for Bojorquez to choose for his next team after losing the competition to Hekker last year. Bojorquez said he ultimately requested the Packers for the challenge of punting inside Lambeau Field. Now, he’ll be searching for a new team for the second straight year.