Chicago’s tight end position in 2019 was such a train wreck that the Bears completely overhauled the group this offseason. The four guys they opened the season with a year ago are all gone; Trey Burton (cut), Ben Braunecker (cut), Adam Shaheen (traded), and Bradley Sowell (free agent).
As it stands right now the Bears only have six active tight ends on the roster, with one more on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Considering they opened each of the last two seasons with only four at the position, they’ll have some decisions to make in their roster make-up.
The Bears have two distinct tight end positions, the U (move) and the Y (in-line), plus they’ve utilized an H-Back (fullback) at times the last two years under head coach Matt Nagy. Versatility is a must for the Bears at tight end, but if the plan is indeed to play more 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE) this year then I could see them opening up with five at the position. Nagy wants to get his tight ends involved and Chicago’s aggressiveness in fixing the position this offseason will pay dividends for his scheme.
Rookie Cole Kmet is the future at the position for the Bears as he has the upside to play both spots, but he’ll probably be behind both Jimmy Graham (U) and Demetrius Harris (Y) for most of his rookie season. These three should be a productive trio in 2020 for the Bears, and I predict they’ll eclipse the 64 receptions the tight end position racked up in Nagy’s 2018 offense for the Bears.
Look for the 33-year old Graham to give the Bears that savvy zone beater they missed a year ago, and his post up ability will help move the chains for who over ends up quarterbacking the team. Harris isn’t exactly a mauler at the point of attack, but he’s a decent blocking option and he has some sneaky athleticism to be a threat in the passing game. Kmet’s playing time will likely be tied to how quickly he picks up the playbook, and early indications from the coaches are that he’s a quick study.
A good bet to make it
J.P. Holtz showed some versatility a year ago, and with Shaheen and Braunecker both gone, Holtz’s ability to back up at the Y, play some H-back, and play special teams should get him a roster spot.
On the bubble
If the Bears go with five at the position then I think Jesper Horsted sticks as a back up to the U. The Bears liked him a year ago after he converted from a Princeton wide receiver, and with a full year working out in preparation to play tight end I think he has a great chance to stick around. If he’s cut he’ll be a practice squad lock.
Eric Saubert was placed on the reserve/COVID-10 list, but once he’s healthy he has a special teams background that could help him push for a fifth roster spot, but at the the very least he’ll have a shot at the practice squad.
Former basketball player Darion Clark is an intriguing athlete to stick around on the practice squad, but he’s too raw right now to make the 2020 53-man roster.