The tight end can be a lot of things to an offense. He can be a safety valve, a Cover-2 beater down the field, or extra protection for a passing game. In the running game, he can be a lead blocker as an additional offensive lineman.
Dion Sims comes to Chicago after four years with the Miami Dolphins, where he served primarily as a blocking tight end. Upon signing a multi-year deal with the Bears in the opening days of free agency, expectations for Sims will be a bit higher moving forward.
He has ideal size to be a two-way tight end, who can block in pass protection or assist in the running game, but also be a tough customer to bring down or a red zone target for a quarterback in Mike Glennon (who owns a career 20-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 73 red zone pass attempts).
Sims saw increased play in his final year with the Dolphins, but projects to get an increased number of snaps in Chicago. How he makes the most of his newfound playing time will be one of the things worth keeping an eye on when the season kicks off.
Player, Age (in 2017) Position
Dion Sims, 26, tight end
Three years years, $18 million ($6 million guaranteed, per Over The Cap)
- Season stats: 14 games (11 starts), 26 catches (35 targets), 256 yards, 4 touchdowns
- Pro Football Focus Grade: 59.8 (38th ranked tight end)
Sims, who had made 11 starts in his first three seasons in Miami, started 11 of 14 games he appeared in for the Dolphins in 2016. He wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game, never making more than four catches in a game and cracking 50 receiving yards just once. Sims was a block-first tight end who was graded by Pro Football Focus to have a 48.3 run block grade (41st among 63 qualifying tight ends) and 50.1 pass block grade (39th).
He played his best in December, catching 11 of 13 targets (84.6%) for 89 yards and three touchdowns. To put it in perspective, Sims caught nine of 14 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown in five games played from the start of October through the end of November.
Performance Before 2016
- Career stats: 56 games (22 starts), 74 catches (106 targets), 699 yards, 8 touchdowns
- PFF grades: 50.4 (2013), 70.5 (2014), 59.3 (2015)
I hate to sound repetitive, but Sims’ résumé is limited. He hasn’t been given too many opportunities to display his skills, and has been deployed primarily as an additional blocker when he has received significant playing time. The Bears believe Sims has yet to reach his full potential and are banking on a change of scenery being beneficial for the 6-foot-5, 262-pound tight end.
Sims has a bit of a concussion history, which caused him to miss two games in 2016. He also missed two games in 2015 because of a concussion, which had him on the injury report for a total of four weeks two years ago. A toe injury caused Sims to miss two games in 2014.
Where Sims Fits
Tight end was not a position of strength in 2016. After letting Martellus Bennett go via trade, the door was open for Zach Miller to receive an increased role in the offense after a breakout season of sorts in 2015. But injuries sidelined Miller again, leaving the Bears to play musical chairs with the other players at the position for most of the season.
Sims is a known unknown of sorts. He is a willing blocker with size, and the Bears think enough of his hands to potentially use him as a big-bodied red zone target. Sims will likely enter the season as the Bears’ second tight end, which can be useful if the Bears truly commit to running the ball with Jordan Howard – and in potential play action passing situations. The $6 million in guaranteed money seems steep, but if Sims plays as well as GM Ryan Pace believes, he could be a sneaky value.
“Blocking is an attitude.”
Well, that’s one way of putting it. Those were Sims’ words at last Friday’s introductory press conference, and his history suggests he has had plenty of it. However, Sims can’t come to Chicago and be a one-dimensional tight end. Not with the lack of options on the outside, and frankly, not for what he will earn in his contract. While it’s unfair to put unreal expectations on a player based on his contract, Sims will need his game to develop in Chicago if the Bears are to improve their offense.