The notion of the tight end as nothing more than a glorified offensive lineman has retired along with former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz. While there's still a place for the blocking TE in the NFL and in Chicago, the Bears will actually want to find a TE that can catch the ball. Could that guy be on the roster in the athletic Kellen Davis? Will he even be on the roster in 2012? With the help of the grading system from Pro Football Focus we'll take an in depth look at the TE position with an eye towards 2012.
Kellen Davis - Free Agent - I can't imagine there being a market for Davis, so the Bears could bring him back at a workable salary. Some team may look at the athletic Davis and think he's a diamond in the rough, but the fact remains that not even the Bears know if he can evolve into a pass catching threat. Earlier in his career he had Greg Olsen in front of him on the depth chart and in 2011 he had the stink of the Martzfense all over him. There's been a few "Wow" plays from him, but not enough to know for sure. I think he should return if the price is right.
Pro Football Focus had neutral grades across the board for Davis except for a -1.3 in his run blocking. He was their 22nd ranked TE overall. For a little perspective, they had former Bear Greg Olsen graded down at #36 with a -3.6 grade. Kellen's catch percentage of those TEs that took at least 25% of their teams snaps was a 54th best 58.1%. But with just being throw at 31 times, it's a small sample size. Maybe with more opportunities he'll flourish.
Matt Spaeth - Signed through 2013 - This was a good signing as he was a block first TE that fit the old system, but he should find a home in 2012 as well. He's a little pricey for a #2 TE at $1.775 million in 2012 and $2 million in '13, but when thrown to he's shown good hands. The Bears plan is to be a smash mouth run team, and Spaeth fits that mold. He's definitely returning to Chicago.
PFF had him as the 19th rated TE in the NFL last year, with his only negative mark in the pass block category. Seeing how much he was used in this aspect under Martz, I think his -1.2 is actually OK. And when you look at the breakdown of the grades even further, we see that his pass block grade was neutral every week except the week 10 Lions game where his -1.7 drug his number down.
Andre Smith - contract undisclosed - The rookie undrafted free agent spent a little time on the Bears active roster, but he didn't find his way into any games. At best he'll be back in camp competing for a spot in 2012.
Kyle Adams - Signed through 2013 - The Bears were high on the undrafted rookie free agent, and he made the opening day roster. Unfortunately he ended his season on injured reserve. They seemed to lik his versatility and he has a good chance to stick on the '12 roster. Personally I never saw that much from him to believe he's anything more than 3rd or 4th TE. PFF had him involved in 12 snaps for the year.
Draylen Ross - Signed to a reserve/future contract - A camp body, albeit a big camp body (6'4" 271) signed for some depth.
2012 OUTLOOK - If the Bears believe that Davis can be the future at the position, they'll lock him up, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a rookie or two brought in to compete. I think there are too many other needs on the roster to spend a draft choice on unless someone really high on their board slips to them late.
In case you missed them:
2012 Chicago Bears Roster Turnover: Quarterback
2012 Chicago Bears Roster Turnover: Running back