When the Chicago Bears added tights ends during the last few years, they were doing so because the scheme demanded they have a quality move (U) tight end to serve as one of the adjustors in the old offense. The new scheme isn’t as reliant on that specific tight end position, but a quality in-line (Y) can thrive and be a difference maker in their new offense they plan to build around Justin Fields.
When run correctly, play action passes to the tight end is like stealing in this scheme, but he’ll need to be able to block in the outside zone.
The Bears spent a second round pick in 2020 on a guy they thought could develop into a Y/U hybrid, but so far he’s looking more like an in-line player than anything, and that’s okay. I know a lot of fans are down on Cole Kmet’s potential, but the soon to be 23-year old will have every opportunity to prove his best football is still in front of him.
In this 12-part series I’ll be listing the contract status of all the current Bears players on a position by position basis, while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Cole Kmet - Signed through 2023 - Did you realize that there were only 10 other tight ends in the NFL last season that had more than Kmet’s 60 receptions and 612 yards?
That’s not bad production for a second year, 22-year old player.
And did you also realize that there were only 5 younger players in the entire league that had more catches and receiving yards than Kmet did?
This regime may not have picked Kmet, but they’ll find a way to get him involved off the bootlegs, split zones, leak outs, and occasional deep seam shots this offense is sure to utilize.
So many fans go to George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Darren Waller when thinking about the tight end position, but those guys are the elite of the position. Kmet needs to keep working on his blocking and spend some time with the Jugs machine, but he’s already a solid football player. There’s no reason why Kmet can’t continue his development and become a very reliable tight end for the Bears for the next several years.
I know reliable and solid aren’t the adjectives you want when thinking about a second round pick, but he plays a position where it’s common for guys to take a few years to come into their own.
Jimmy Graham - Free agent - Even though Graham is set to be a free agent because of void years he’s technically inked for 4 more seasons. Once he’s officially released the Bears will be on the hook for $4.66 million, but it’s just a matter of them wanting to eat it all in 2022 or spreading it out a little by making him a June 1 cut. Regardless on how they let him go, I’d be shocked if the new regime wants him to return to the team.
Jesse James - Free agent - Another free agent with void years, three of them for $487,500 to be exact, but at 27-years old I think there’s a slight chance the Bears could bring him back to compete for a back up job in camp.
J.P. Holtz - Restricted free agent - Holtz is a special teamer with some in-line and H-back versatility, so he may be a fit for the new offense. As an RFA I think it makes sense to get him in camp to compete for a spot, but at 28-years old the Bears may want to roll the dice with a younger player.
Jesper Hortsed - Exclusive rights free agent - Hortsed ended the 2021 season on injured reserve, but it was a minor injury that he’s probably already over. Considering he’s an ERFA I think there’s a good chance he returns.
2022 OUTLOOK - The Bears are going to bring in some new blood at the position, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them add a decent veteran blocker to the group. The Titans’ Geoff Swaim, San Fran’s Ross Dwelley, and Tyler Kroft from the Jets are a few veterans that could make some sense. Holtz and James could be in that mix as well, but the Bears should be able to find a relatively cheap veteran as free agency winds down.
If the Bears look towards the NFL Draft, perhaps a mid round prospect like Charlie Kolar from Iowa State or Jelani Woods out of Virginia on day 3 could land in Chicago. With the Bears not having many picks, and new GM Ryan Poles talking about positional value, I could see him only getting a tight end if he falls down the board a bit. I’d also expect at least one undrafted free agent to come in as well.