UPDATE: The Bears made Ben Braunecker’s return officially official. It’s a two-year deal for the Harvard guy. Our original post is as follows.
Between the free agent signings of Dion Sims and Trey Burton, as well as the second-round pick of Adam Shaheen, the Chicago Bears have gone all-in on trying to put together a strong tight ends room over the past few years.
Unfortunately, beyond the top, things haven’t quite gone to plan. Sims was cut in February to clear cap space and Shaheen has been largely limited due to injuries and an on-going fight with the learning curve. And while Burton put up career-best numbers across the board and proved to be a trustworthy target for Mitch Trubisky last season, there’s still a sense that something is missing from this position group.
Ultimately – thanks to other roster needs and the salary cap crunch – any improvements to the top will have come from within. But perhaps Ben Braunecker could chip in on the depth side of things.
NBC Sports Chicago reports that the Bears are expected to re-sign the tight end, Braunecker, to a two-year deal that figures to be loaded with incentives. Braunecker slides right back into a TE3 role for the Bears, which is where he spent a good chunk of the 2018 season, too. The Bears found Braunecker to be a useful player when Sims and/or Shaheen was out of action last season, which isn’t bad considering he was one of the few holdovers from the John Fox era who played in Dowell Loggains’ offense.
Braunecker played 141 snaps in 15 games last season and even made two starts. As for a usage split, a majority of Braunecker’s snaps came in blocking situations, with 74 run-blocking plays and nine where he was in as a pass-blocker. Braunecker caught just three passes for 42 yards, but never really stood out for the wrong reasons. That feels like a good thing.
This move all but likely moves the Bears out of contention for a free agent tight end such as Jesse James or Demetrius Harris, which is probably good for a team trying to fit bigger needs into a tight salary cap situation. It also pushes the need to draft a tight end down the list of priorities. Again, that’s good because it would allow the team to focus elsewhere on draft weekend.
Bringing back Braunecker isn’t a splash move by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something that feels right about keeping a low-cost, home-grown talent in the locker room (bonus points for being a Harvard guy). Maybe the front office could put his brain to use in order to find cap-friendly solutions elsewhere on the team’s shopping list. (Hey! Can’t hurt, could help!)