A new era of Bears football begins in 2018 with Matt Nagy leading the way as the 16th head coach in franchise history. But for Nagy to succeed, he’ll need an injection of talent at various positions across the field – free agency is one such avenue for that improvement.
So let’s take a look at some of the more promising available free agents, to see if there might be a fit with the Chicago Bears.
Player, Age (in 2018), Position
Trey Burton, 27, tight end
Season stats: 15 games (1 start), 23 catches, 248 yards, 10.8 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns
Pro Football Focus grade: 75.6 overall, 13th among qualifying tight ends
Burton had a quasi-breakout season in 2017, even though the number of catches and receiving yards dipped a little from the year before. He averaged 10.8 yards per reception and scored five touchdowns.
Burton’s best game came in the Eagles’ 43-35 win against the Rams when played a season-high 52.2 percent of offensive snaps. He certainly made the most of them as he caught five of six targets for 71 yards and two touchdowns while filling in for starter Zach Ertz. PFF’s analysis had Burton as the highest-graded tight end that for Week 14, with Bears tight end Adam Shaheen coming in fourth with an 81.9 grade. As fate would have it, that was the same week Shaheen caught four of five targets for 44 yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yeah, it’s OK if you’ve already started dreaming about them working as a tandem.
Performance Before 2017
Stats: 46 games (4 starts), 40 catches, 381 yards, 9.5 yards per catch, 1 touchdown
Pro Football Focus grades: 65.6 (2016), 61.5 (2015), 44.2 (2014)
Burton was mostly used as a bit player behind Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, but flashed at times early in his career. He earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team in 2014 and didn’t even catch a pass. Burton’s rise up the depth chart started by excelling on special teams and his PFF grade has improved each year he has played. Perhaps that’s a sign the arrow is still pointing up.
In The End …
Even though the Bears already have Adam Shaheen in the mix, they could stand to add a second player at the position – preferably one who can be a factor in the passing game and as a blocker. Burton did that in spurts for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, but it’s clear that 1) he is is ready for an expanded role in an offense and 2) the Bears are the kind of team that can give it to him.
Because Nagy’s offensive system projects to feature concepts similar to those run by Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, Burton is an ideal fit to play a Zach Miller type of role in Chicago.
If the Bears want to nab Burton, they’ll have to navigate through a crowded field to do so. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweets that 16 teams have already kicked the tires on Burton. He’ll be plenty popular once free agency opens up.