Even though there is an expectation that the Chicago Bears will aggressively pursue tight end upgrades this offseason, it would be unwise to look past what the team already has in-house.
In fact, it sounds as if the highest-profile tight end on the roster will be a major part of the team’s plans for 2020: “I’m not saying Bears won’t go forward without supplementing at the position,” writes SI.com’s Albert Breer. “But word is they’re OK with Trey Burton being the headliner there, on the belief that he’s just has a lot of bad injury luck the last couple of years.”
But if that’s the case, the Bears are taking an awfully large risk. Even if last year’s 14-catch, 84-yard season can be chalked up to poor injury luck, Burton has just one year under his belt as a full-time starter. Combine that and the injury risks, and I can’t help but see the Bears as walking a fine line when it comes to a position of high importance in Matt Nagy’s offense.
Sure, Burton’s 54-catch, 569-yard, 6-touchdown debut Bears season was respectable, but I doubt it was what Chicago’s front office had in mind when they threw down the highest bid to land the free agent tight end the offseason prior. All things considered, there isn’t enough of a baseline for Burton as a TE1 to have full and unwavering faith that injuries were the sole reason why 2019 went down the way it did.
So what else can it be? Well …
Perhaps Breer’s report is part of a negotiating ploy from the Bears’ perspective. There’s no leverage to be had in negotiations when everyone knows your most desperate need. So, we can’t discount the idea of floating a rumor that the Bears are happy with Burton entering the 2020 season as a play for leverage.
And now that we’ve re-established why Chicago is targeting tight end as a priority this offseason, the latest report from The Athletic (on the Bears exploring trade targets at the position) makes a lot more sense.
NOTE: As a reminder, trades can not be finalized until the start of the new league year on March 18. But that won’t stop them from talking, negotiating, and offering up a verbal agreement on a deal before it can be officially finalized.
During the season, Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard was oft-rumored to be on the move, but the Buccaneers didn’t deal the 2017 first-round pick, even as his name did come up late in 2019 as a possible offseason trade target.
To that end, speculation in The Athletic lists Howard’s Tampa Bay teammate Cameron Brate as someone who could be available after a decline in snap share and production occurred during his first season in Bruce Arians’ system. Jeff Huermen (Broncos), Vance McDonald, Delanie Walker, and Jimmy Graham (who has since been released by the Packers) are also thrown into the discussion. These names aren’t going to strike a ton of fear in the heart of opposing defense, but they would add some much needed depth to the position. Then again, isn’t that what Demetrius Harris was supposed to bring to the table?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the risks and costs of dabbling in the free agent market. But there are times when you have to spend money to make it. And because we saw what it looked like when the Bears got deep into their tight end depth chart, upgrading the very top of the group seems like a more valuable investment than bolstering the middle and bottom tiers.