Martellus Bennett - signed through 2016 - If the Chicago Bears are going to move Bennett, this is the offseason to do so. Last year he was asking for a new deal, but with 2 years on his contract, it made no sense. It also made no sense for the Bears to trade him in 2015 with unproven players on the depth chart behind him. But now, the Bears could move him, or they could even extend the 29 year old if they so inclined.
He has a cap hit of $6.31 million in 2016, which places him as the 11th highest earning TE. After his Pro Bowl 90 catch, 916 yard 2014 season, Bennett thought he deserved to be paid in the upper echelon at his position (last year he was the 9th highest paid TE). This season his numbers dipped to 53 and 439 after missing 5 games. He is a game altering receiving threat at his position, but his effort has been questioned at times.
I have a feeling the Bears won't want the distraction of an unhappy Bennett looking to push his paycheck higher, so a trade is likely. The value may not seem fair, but a 6th rounder in return is probably what they're looking at.
Zach Miller - free agent - I'm a big fan of Miller. I like his comeback story and he has a great attitude. I'm just not sure if he should be trusted to be the #1 TE on the team. Yes, he finally (almost) made it through an entire season, but this was the most games he's played since 2010. He had a productive year with 34 receptions for 439 yards and five touchdowns, in a mostly reserve role, but he'll be 32 next season.
Miller is asking for $5 million per season, and I don't see how the Bears could justify that unless they move Bennett. Technically they do have the cap space, but teams usually don't allocate that kind of money to a position group.
Since I think Bennett is moved, I think they'll re-sign Miller, but they'll also look to find another starting quality player to add to the mix.
Khari Lee - signed through 2017 - Lee wasn't utilized much in the passing game last year, but he was a core special teamer. Since the Bears traded a pick for him, I expect he'll receive every chance to showcase his skills. He still has to work on his blocking, but maybe he hunkers down and comes into camp ready to make a difference.
Robert Housler - free agent - Housler was brought in late last year when the Bears put Bennett on IR. He's an athletic move-TE with a bit of an injury history, kind of like Zach Miller. I wouldn't mind seeing the Bears bring him back on a one year prove it type deal.
Marcus Lucas - signed through 2016 - Lucas was signed to a reserve/futures deal and he may bring some value as a match up problem if he can fight his way onto the 2016 roster. The Bears officially list him as a WR/TE and while the 2014 UDFA was a wide out in college, the Carolina Panthers moved him to TE last offseason. He bulked up to 235 pounds (6'4"), but wasn't able to crack Carolina's lineup. His 4.6 forty yard dash at the combine isn't exactly blazing for an NFL wide receiver, but if he can prove to be a decent enough blocker, it's plenty fast for a tight end.
Gannon Sinclair - signed through 2016 - He was on the practice squad last year and the Bears brought him back on a reserve/futures deal. A good athlete that needs to grow into his 6'7" frame. If he can get stronger he's a player to keep an eye on.
2016 OUTLOOK - The top tight end in the NFL Draft is probably Arkansas' Hunter Henry and our draft guy, EJ Snyder, already gave us a scouting report on him. Eleventh overall is too rich for the Bears to take Hunter, but if he slips to the 2nd round he would be a fine choice.
East Carolina's Bryce Williams is a mid round option that could be a versatile threat in the NFL. He has good athleticism, good hands, good size (6'6", 260), and East Carolina lined him up all over the offense.
If the Bears go the free agent route, the Colts' Dwayne Allen could probably be had at a reasonable price. He's had some injury issues during his 4 year career, but when healthy he could be a help to an offense. Perhaps 32 year old Vernon Davis will have a chip on his shoulder after not being much of a factor for the Broncos this year.
Honestly there's no free agent TE that screams difference making #1 TE, and certainly none as talented as Martellus Bennett. If the Bears and Bennett can somehow get on the same page, he should be back in 2016.
What are your thoughts on the tight end position for the Bears?