The tight end position was a sore spot for the Chicago Bears last year, especially once Zach Miller went to injured reserve. Before he was hurt, Miller was on pace for a 75 catch season, and even in just 10 games he set career highs in both receptions (47) and receiving yards (486).
Veteran Logan Paulsen gave the Bears more penalties than receptions in 2016, and the other tight ends on the roster were young guys still trying to find their way as professionals.
General manager Ryan Pace had to address the position and he did so in both the draft and in free agency. His additions could make what was a problem area in 2016, a real strength in 2017.
Free agent pick up Dion Sims is paid like a starter, and he has the all around skill set to be the starter for what the Bears want to do on offense. He’s a classic in-line tight end that will help as a blocker in both the running and passing game, but he’s athletic enough that he will be a threat as a receiver as well. I’m excited to see him sneaking off the line on play action passes.
The other lock is rookie second rounder Adam Shaheen. When Pace plucked the small school prospect in the draft, many Bears’ fans had no idea who he was, but he was definitely on the radar of the other 31 teams in the NFL. His size/speed combo, coupled with his basketball background, is what scouts have been looking for at the position for a few years now. His blocking will take some work, but when I talked to Jarrett Payton of CLTV sports, he told me Shaheen was very impressive as a receiver during OTAs.
A good bet to make it
I honestly think it’s a wide open competition behind Sims and Shaheen. I’d like to say Miller has the upper hand, but his injury history has to be taken into consideration when finalizing the 53 man roster.
Something else to consider is how many tight ends will they carry. The last two years they opened up with three tight ends, but last year a roster spot was used on a fullback. If they don’t want a fullback this season, that could open a spot up for a fourth tight end.
On the bubble
So, with that being said, I do have Miller on the Bubble. If the 32 year old Miller is healthy, there’s no doubt he’s one of the best three tight ends on the roster, but his availability has been a problem his entire career. He is currently healthy, so we’ll see how that plays out in camp.
The Bears may weigh their options and go with the younger Daniel Brown in place of Miller. Both are similar players (move-TEs), but Miller is a better blocker. The 25 year old Brown had 16 receptions for 124 yards last year.
Ben Braunecker has to carve out a niche as an H-Back for the Bears. A lot has been made about what a great combine Shaheen had, but don’t forget that Braunecker had an even better one. Shaheen does have three inches and about 25 pounds on Ben, and he’s also a more natural pass catcher, but from an athletic standpoint, Braunecker has some skills.
If you go simply off of combine numbers, MyCloe Pruitt, a former 5th round pick of the Vikings (2015), would make the team. If he can get his 4.58 speed to translate to the field for the Bears, possibly in a H-Back type of role, he may surprise.
What are your thoughts on the tight ends?