Chicago Bears clear a path for rookie punter Tory Taylor by placing Trenton Gill on waivers

There will be no guise of competition for rookie Tory Taylor, not from Trenton Gill anyway.

The Chicago Bears, who made Taylor their highest-drafted punter since Todd Sauerbrun was a second-round pick in 1995 when they selected him in Round 4 (No. 122) on Saturday, placed Gill on waivers Wednesday afternoon. The move has been expected since the weekend.

The move allows Gill to begin searching for a team that could provide him an opportunity to win a job and clears the way for Taylor, an Australian who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter this past fall at Iowa, to take over.

The Bears drafted Gill, 25, in the seventh round in 2022 and he had a chance to become only the third Bears punter to complete a season with a net average above 40 yards before a final game in tough conditions at Soldier Field against the Minnesota Vikings. Gill finished his rookie season with a net average of 39.0 yards and landed 30.3% of his kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

The punting game — reflective of the entire special teams unit — struggled this past season.

The Bears ranked 31st in net punting (38.0), 25th in gross punting (46.1), 30th in touchback percentage (11.9%), 30th in punts inside the 20-yard line (26.9%) and 25th in return yards allowed (381). Those struggles led the team to consider options and the Bears made the rare move of using a mid-round selection on Taylor. The last time a punter went earlier in the draft was in 2019 when the San Francisco 49ers chose Mitch Wishnowsky, also an Aussie, in Round 4 at No. 110.

“I didn’t expect him to get much further,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said of selecting Taylor where he did. “Definitely didn’t think I’d be able to pick him up when we got into the fifth round. 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.

“So, I think it’s going to add to our team and make it uncomfortable and difficult for any team we’re going against.”