Phil Emery: Bears 'wide open' at punter

INDIANAPOLIS -- Veteran punter Adam Podlesh will have to fight to keep the starting job he’s held since signing a five-year, $10 million contract with the Bears in the spring of 2011.

With the Bears presently carrying three punters on their offseason roster (Podlesh, Drew Butler and Tress Way), the team is not close to naming the 2014 starter.

“It’s wide open. It’s a wide open competition,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said Thursday at the NFL combine.

Podlesh averaged a career-low 40.6 yards per punt last season with a 37.9 yard net average. He tied for 13th in the NFL with 27 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20.

On two separate occasions in the past two years, the Bears have brought a large group of punters to Halas Hall for open tryouts after Podlesh experienced difficulties in game situations. In both instances, Podlesh responded with solid efforts the following week.

Podlesh set the franchise single-season record in net punting average (40.4) in 2011. The next year, Podlesh had the second-highest net punting average in franchise history at 39.4 yards.

However, Podlesh finished the 2013 campaign with a 36.1 yard per punt average over the last four games.

Further complicating the situation is Podlesh’s cost. He is scheduled to count $1.825 million against the cap in 2014. Butler carries a $495,000 potential cap charge. Way’s number would be $420,000.