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Chicago Bears 2018 Roster Turnover: How big of a need is tight end?

In this 13 part series we’ll take an in depth look at each position group for the Chicago Bears with an eye towards the 2018 season. We’ll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we’d like to see general manager Ryan Pace make.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Sims - Signed through 2019 - I really liked the Sims signing last year. He’s a true inline tight end that should have fit the run first, play action attack that the Chicago Bears were going to employ. Consistency on the offense never materialized under John Fox and Dowell Loggains. Last offseason, I predicted Sims would have a career year, but now with a new coaching regime in place, it’s possible the Bears decide to move on from him. As usual, general manager Ryan Pace gave himself an out when he inked Sims. Cutting him would only result in $666,667 in dead money, but a cap savings of $6 million.

I still think Sims could add some value to the Bears this season, but after his 2017 performance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go.

Adam Shaheen - Signed through 2020 - We saw glimpses of what the 6’6”, 275 pound Shaheen could do last year, but in my opinion, the Bears used him all wrong. His blocking is the last thing that is going to develop, so they should have used him more as a move-TE. I get that they had to work him inline from time to time, and he did show promise as a blocker, but a good offensive scheme would have put him on a mismatch and exploited it.

I know a lot of fans want to draw the parallel between the ChiefsTravis Kelce and what current Bears head coach and former Chiefs’ O.C. Matt Nagy will do with Shaheen, but don’t expect 80 catches and a thousand yards out of the second year pro in 2018.

He should have a very productive year and I’m excited to see his development this offseason.

Hopefully his Chiptole habit is under control.

Zach Miller - Free agent - Miller has been one of my favorite Bears in recent memory. I loved his story of fighting through injury after injury to earn a nice contract in Chicago. When healthy, he was a very productive receiver and a surprisingly good blocker. His latest injury setback is one I just don’t see him returning from. But if anyone can do it, it’s Zach Miller.

Daniel Brown - Exclusive rights free agent - I think the Bears will bring Brown back, if for nothing else, than a chance to see him operate in a competent offensive scheme. He’s managed to make himself into a decent special teamer, appearing in over 40% of the third phase snaps last year, and on offense, he’s been a reliable pass catcher when called upon.

Ben Braunecker - Signed through 2018 - From a purely athletic standpoint, Braunecker may have been one of the most impressive tight ends to ever perform at the NFL Combine. He had the best 60 yard shuttle in 2016 among tight ends. His vertical leap, broad jump, 20 yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill was 2nd best. He had the third best bench press and fifth fastest forty among his class of TEs.

As a pro, that athleticism hasn’t translated to the offensive side of the ball, but maybe a new play caller is what he needs to reach his potential.

Colin Thompson - Signed through 2019 - Thompson is a blocking tight end that will try and add value in the running game and as a special teamer.

2018 OUTLOOK - If the Bears decide to part ways with Sims, then tight end suddenly becomes a need. Shaheen isn’t ready to be the top guy at the position yet, so they’ll need a veteran on the roster. I think they could also draft a guy late, and they did talk to a couple guys down at the Senior Bowl.

Shameless plug for my latest T Formation Conversation where we talked about some of the Bears’ targets at the Senior Bowl.

Even though Kelce was a featured player in Nagy’s (i.e. Andy Reid’s) offense last year, don’t assume the Bears need a top tight end to run the O. Nagy will run his offense around the talent he has. If they do decide to target a tight end in free agency, then a high upside guy like Philadelphia’s Trey Burton (6’3”, 235) could be a nice acquisition. He played some fullback in college, so an H-Back role could add to his value. Plus the Eagles terminology will likely be similar to what Matt Nagy is bringing to the Bears.

What do you guys think the Bears do at tight end in 2018?