In this ongoing series I'll take an in-depth look at each position on the Bears with an eye towards 2011. Thanks to Pro Football Focus, I'll be able to give a different perspective on the players by showcasing their grading system.
The tight end position was much talked about all of last season. Will Mike Martz throw to his TEs? Will Greg Olsen be traded? Six million guaranteed for a blocking TE? What's an H-Back? Why isn't Desmond Clark playing? After the jump I'll look at the four TEs from last year and speculate on what 2011 holds for the position.
Greg Olsen - signed through 2011 - I wouldn't be surprised to see Olsen offered an extension at some point in 2011. He may turn it down, but I think the Bears may approach him about one. He has a unique skill set that the Bears started to utilize in 2011. He may never be an elite Pro Bowl type TE, but he is versatile enough to be used all over the field. His much maligned blocking improved in my opinion. I saw him seal the edge on more than one occasion and his lead blocking looked much better. He made big stride from a technique aspect in 2011.
Pro Football Focus had Olsen ranked 47th overall, 20th in the passing game as a receiver, 36th as a pass blocker, and 54th as a run blocker. Now before all the 'Olsen is soft' people start in on his poor run block ranking, understand that as the year went on he progressed. In the first 10 games of the season, Olsen had 5 negative and 5 neutral graded run blocking games. In the final 8 games he had 4 neutral and 4 positive graded games. In fact, according to PFF, he didn't have a negative grade in any aspect after week 11 against the Dolphins. Olsen settled into his role in the offense, and I think next year his familiarity will really allow him to flourish.
Kellen Davis - signed through 2011 - Even though Davis is cast as the blocking TE, that isn't his game. He's improved as a blocker since he's come into the league, but his receiving skills are ahead of his blocking skills. He's a valuable part of the special teams and will be back next year.
PFF graded Davis on 147 regular season snaps and he also had a negative grade as a run blocker, but like Olsen, I thought Davis improved in 2011.
Brandon Manumaleuna - signed through 2014 - Manu had a bad year. Factor in his fat contract and it's makes it seem that much worse. I read somewhere this season that a blocking TE is only as good as the offensive line he is supporting, so that may have had something to do with his poor play, but he had some missed blocks on the season that were all on him. I think he'll be fighting for his football life this preseason. He'll need to come into camp in great shape and prove that last year was a fluke. He's due a 1 million dollar roster bonus next year, so if his play is shaky at all he may be cut.
PFF had him as the 63rd rated TE, after being 43rd in 2009, and 26th in 2008. Either his age is catching up with him or some of the injuries he's dealt with the last few years is taking a toll. For some perspective on Manu's poor season grade I'll compare my grade for him in the week 15 Vikings game against their grade. PFF gave him a -4.2 after grading his 39 snaps. I gave him a +30 (or a -7 depending on how you want to look at it) after grading 37 of his snaps (I must have missed a couple). Mine is a simple plus/minus system for each play, and their system is described here. So while he has to block better next season it isn't as though he's a giant turd missing every block he attempts, but his 2010 play was unacceptable seeing as how he was brought in to block.
Desmond Clark - free agent - Clark has probably played his last game in Chicago. Even if he dosen't get a substantial offer from another team, I don't see the Bears bringing him back regardless of cost. He was a true professional while in Chicago and I think he has a couple good years left if he can find a team.
2011 OUTLOOK - With Clark gone, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bears spend a late draft pick on a TE (if Jerry Angelo picks up some extra late picks by trading down), or more likely to bring in a couple undrafted free agents to compete for a job. The Bears didn't have many games in 2010 with 4 TEs active, but they need 4 around, even if they stash one on the practice squad. A big fullback type that they can convert to an H-Back is a possibility too.