The Bears’ 2018 season was equal parts successful and fun, though it’s finally time to move on. But before we get right to 2019, let’s take a position-by-position look at the roster – as presently constructed – to find out what’s in store for the offseason and upcoming year.
Today: Tight ends
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
The Bears received a fine return-on-investment from free agent Trey Burton (54 catches, 569 receiving yards, 6 TDs) in his first year, though it would have been nice to see him play the Eagles on Wild-Card Weekend. But that’s water under the bridge and we’re fully prepared to move on. Starting now. What’s important moving forward is that Mitch Trubisky posted a 112.0 passer rating and completed 72.5 percent of his passes when targeting Burton in 2018. It’s a good start to what is hopefully a wonderful relationship.
Adam Shaheen’s second season as a pro was derailed by a preseason foot/ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve to start the season, then suffered a concussion in his first game back. It’s been tough sledding for Shaheen, who caught just five passes for 48 yards with a touchdown and two point conversion in six games. Not quite the production you’re looking for from a second-round tight end.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
Ben Braunecker is a restricted free agent who filled in nicely when Shaheen and Dion Sims were unavailable earlier in the season. Daniel Brown is as unrestricted free agent and is coming off s season in which he played a grand total of 24 snaps (22 of which came on run-blocking plays). It’s tough to see him as a fit for this roster after seeing his playing time get slashed in the first year of a new regime.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
Two years after taking the plunge to sign a block-first tight end in free agency, the Bears cut Dion Sims and cleared up $6 million in cap space. Hopefully, the concussion issues that sidelined Sims the last two years will go away soon. Head injuries are to be taken seriously.
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
There are two directions the Bears can follow en route to rounding out a tight ends room that is missing a piece that will tie it all together. They could dive into free agency and find some cost-efficient options such as Jesse James (Steelers), Jeff Heuerman (Broncos), or Demetrius Harris (Chiefs). None of those options will command top dollar and each provides a short-term fit on the roster.
Chicago could also sort through their draft options and aim for an upgrade that way. Combine stud/Iowa product Noah Fant’s stock is on the rise and most likely out of the Bears’ draft range. HOWEVER, Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M), Kaden Smith (Stanford), and Notre Dame’s Alize Mack stand out as possible mid-round targets worth keeping an eye on. The Bears don’t need Travis Kelce here, but it would be nice to add a true two-way tight end to this group.
And with that, we’ve hit the end of the road for this series.
Next stop: Free agency!