When you’re signed to play the same position in an offense that a first team All-Pro played, there will be some lofty expectations for you.
The Chicago Bears gave 26-year old, tight end Trey Burton a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million, with $7.5 million guaranteed. His $8 million per year average makes him the seventh highest paid tight end in the NFL. General manager Ryan Pace gave his new head coach, Matt Nagy, a critical piece for the offense he’s installing this offseason. While with the Kansas City Chiefs the last four years, Nagy saw Travis Kelce develop into one of the best tight ends in the game while being featured at the U position in their offense.
In the Andy Reid version of the West Coast Offense, the U is basically the “move” (or sometimes called the “Joker”) tight end. Nagy is bringing the offense with him that he learned under Reid since 2008, and Trey Burton will be playing the Kelce role for the Bears.
While the two have similar skill-sets as far as catching the ball, Kelce’s size (6’5”, 260) makes him a different type of U than Burton (6’3”, 235) will be. The Chiefs lined Kelce up all over the offense, including as a traditional in-line tight end. The Bears will ask Burton to occasionally line up next to an offensive tackle, but I think they’ll use Dion Sims or Adam Shaheen more like that.
Benjamin Solak, who covers the Philadelphia Eagles (Burton’s former team) for SB Nation recently told us that, “Burton’s greatest strength is his versatility.”
“He has a blend of size and quickness that enable to him line up anywhere from slot receiver to fullback, and as such, he can be deployed in a variety of ways.” Solak added in his Q&A with Robert Zeglinski from March. “He’s got natural hands and runs clean routes: his yard after the catch ability is strong.”
We’ll see Burton split out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield like an H-Back, all in an effort to mind a mismatch.
Even though Burton isn’t as big as Kelce, he still has a size advantage over defensive backs. He can post DBs up, or body them away from balls while going up to get it. His route running and quickness is tough for linebackers to stay with, so as a match-up nightmare, Burton will have plenty of opportunities to make plays.
The Bears will run a lot of double-TE sets, so even though they added three new wide outs to the mix in free agents Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, and rookie Anthony Miller, we should still expect the Bears to formulate a lot of their game-plans around the mismatches Burton can create.
Last year with the Chiefs, Travis Kelce was their most targeted player in the passing game with 122 targets. He put up 83 receptions, 1,038 yards, and 8 touchdowns.
Last season in Philadelphia, Burton was targeted 31 times, and he snagged 23 balls, for 248 yards, with 5 touchdowns. Burton’s four-year career numbers (63/629/6) can’t even touch what Kelce has been able to do in one year, but the Bears are paying Burton like a TE1, so they’ll be expecting TE1 type of numbers.