The Chicago Bears tripled-up on their investment at tight end in 2017 by drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round after signing Dion Sims to a contract in free agency, despite already having Zach Miller on the roster.
One year later, Shaheen might be the only tight end returning for another run with the Bears.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune hints at the idea of the Bears parting ways Sims before the guaranteed money on his contract for 2018 kicks in, and he might have a point. Biggs notes Sims’ guarantee doesn’t become that until March 16, thus a decision whether to retain or release the tight end needs to happen sometime within the next five weeks. If the Bears make the call to cut Sims, he will leave Chicago with just the $6 million guaranteed to him in 2017.
With Zach Miller (unrestricted) and Daniel Brown (restricted) on the brink of free agency, that could leave the Bears in search for help at tight end. A new-look tight ends room isn’t out of the question for 2018 and the Bears could get creative in upgrading the position via free agency.
More specifically, ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson mentions Jimmy Graham as a potential target for GM Ryan Pace, who’s familiar with the 31-year-old pass-catcher from their days with the Saints. Graham hasn’t been as productive with the Seahawks as he was with the Saints, but is still a big-bodied target who has thrived in the red zone. At the peak of his powers, Graham was an offensive force all over the field and wasn’t just relegated to red zone duties. If the Bears believe he can recapture the magic that allowed him to stretch the field, then perhaps a change of scenery and an offensive system that turned Travis Kelce into a star is exactly what the five-time Pro Bowler needs.
With that said … it’s possible the Bears might not want to sink a significant amount of cap space in a tight end on the wrong side of 30 whose 520 receiving yards and 9.1 yards per catch average were his lowest showing in quite some time. And if Pace’s history is to be taken into consideration, he might prefer to go after a younger player with some upside.
That target could be Trey Burton, who you might remember as the touchdown-throwing tight end on the Eagles’ Super Bowl trick play ripped straight from Dowell Loggains’ playbook. It’s evident Burton is ready for a bigger role on offense after playing behind Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, and he really caught our eye with his run blocking in the NFC Championship Game. Adding a legitimate two-way tight end to replace Sims in the rotation could give the Bears a tight end tandem with some significant upside.
The draft isn’t all that deep at tight end and the idea of using a pick to go through the development process again doesn’t seem all that attractive. Adding a veteran pass-catcher like Graham or an established young player entering his prime years in search of a greater opportunity seems like the best route for the Bears to go if they want to get the most out of what was an under utilized position in 2017.