If you were making a checklist for Chicago Bears players worthy of an extension, Cole Kmet would check a bunch of those boxes. For three examples …
- Kmet is coming off a productive season. He caught a career-best seven touchdowns and saw his yards per target bump up for a second straight season.
- Kmet is still young. When Kmet suits up for his fourth year as a pro, he’ll be playing in his age-24 season.
- Kmet comes off as someone who wants to be here for the long haul. A native of suburban Arlington Heights who played collegiately at Notre Dame, Kmet has “local product does good stuff for the home team” vibes emanating from his general vicinity. And not just because he won the 2022 Jeff Dickerson Good Guy award.
With that being said, Kmet is one of a handful of Bears players now eligible to sign an extension with the team. And even though we tried piecing together what it could look like back in December, we now have a better idea from someone who knows a thing or two about contract projections.
PFF’s Brad Spielberger weighed in with a prediction and projection, and it caught my attention:
Spielberger suggests Kmet’s extension this offseason would come in at an average of $12 million per year. He would later go on to tweet that it could be up to a four-year pact. Which puts us at a projection of a four-year deal worth $48 million. All things considered, that isn’t as hefty as I thought it would be.
Kmet’s AAV coming in around $12 million would put him 10th among active tight end contracts on a per-year basis. As of now, he would squeeze behind Hunter Henry ($12.5M) who is on a multi-year deal with the Pats and ahead of Dalton Schultz/Mike Gesicki ($10.391M) who are playing on the franchise tag for the Cowboys and Dolphins, respectively. As for a potential $48 million total value, that would put Kmet after Pats TE Jonnu Smith ($50M) and ahead of Saints multi-purpose player Taysom Hill ($40M). What a collection of names we’ve thrown out for discussion in this paragraph alone.
Ultimately, extensions come down to guaranteed money. For instance, Smith’s four-year deal worth up to $50 million came with $31.25 million in guarantees in 2021. In the same offseason, Hunter Henry’s deal (3/$37.5M) had $25 million in guarantees. So, if I had to guess, Kmet’s guarantees will likely begin at $20 million. But that’s not bad. Moreover, a Kmet extension that was in that ballpark would be good for the player and team. Firstly, because it rewards the player. Secondly, because the team looks good by extending a player who wasn’t hand-picked by this regime. And, thirdly, it wouldn’t be prohibitive in the Bears’ potential attempts at future additions at the position.
We’ve been discussing the Bears’ need to upgrade their pass catchers for a while now. But this offseason’s crop of free-agent receivers isn’t all that inspiring. However, that just means GM Ryan Poles needs to get creative in upgrading the passing game. One way he could go about doing that is by targeting a free agent tight end this offseason. For instance, Dallas’ Dalton Schultz would make for a nice schematic fit as someone who excels as a blocker and can make plays downfield as a receiver. The Bears could do fine in copycatting New England’s old Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez blueprint by teaming two plus tight ends. I’d find that to be a more palatable alternative than overpaying a receiver who isn’t necessarily a fit just because he plays a position of need.
In the end, I find myself in an anticipatory state awaiting what comes of Kmet’s situation. At this time last year, an extension wasn’t on my mind. But Kmet proved himself to be worthy of one after how he played. And because the Bears have to spend money to reach a minimum threshold, I’d recommend a Kmet extension as a good place to start.