In the past few years, the Chicago Bears tight end group has been much maligned by fans. One reason for that is Chicago hasn't had that ultra-productive move tight end like Travis Kelsey or George Kittle, but that changes this season with the addition of a quality "move" tight end in former Green Bay Packer Robert Tonyan. Now the tight end group has an excellent Y and a very good "move" player, and it should both greatly improve the Bears' offense and put pressure on opponents' defenses. Here is a look at the group.
Kmet was the Bears' second-round pick in the 2020 Draft and has performed well since he was drafted. Regardless of his production, Kmet has received a lot of criticism from fans because they expected him to be like a Kelsey or Kittle. The people who throw out the criticism don't understand what Kmet is being asked to do.
Cole Kmet is a pure Y tight end, meaning he is usually lined up next to a tackle and not flexed out. While his job requirement is to be a good receiver, he must also be a very good blocker.
Good Ys are very difficult to find because in today's college game, there are very few in-line tight ends. Most are flexed out and are both fast and athletic. They are more like huge wide receivers than the old-time tight end.
As a Y, Cole Kmet is one of the best in the League. He has great size at 6056 – 264 with 4.70 speed. He is also strong and explosive (37" vertical jump) and has excellent body control.
As a blocker, Cole is one of the best in the League among Ys. One of the reasons the Bears' run game is so strong is his ability to block. As a receiver, he has shown improvement every year. In the last two seasons, he has 110 receptions. While he didn't score a TD in 2021, he had seven last year, and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets close to 10 this year. Kmet runs good routes, can gain separation, and uses his size very well. Because of his size, he creates a lot of mismatches.
I don't expect Kmet ever to be a 70 to 80 catch player, but if he keeps getting around 60, he is doing his job, and the chains get moved. I think he is one of the more underrated players at his position in the League. Blocking tight ends aren't ever appreciated enough by fans, but trust me, the coaches and his teammates love it.
Tonyan was signed as an unrestricted free agent this past March. He spent his first six years in the League with Green Bay. In 2020 and 2022, he had very good seasons with 52 and 53 catches respectively. He also scored 13 times. IN 2021 he only played in 8 games because of an injury but still had 18 receptions and two touchdowns.
Tonyan isn't the biggest guy at 6045 – 240, but he runs very well (4.58) and is a very good route runner with sure hands. He is productive when blocking on the move, but he's not what we'd want at Y. Because of his speed and route running ability, he is a constant threat and can get open deep. He has very good hands and adjusts to the ball very well, and after the catch he is much better than you'd expect as a runner.
What surprises me is the Bears were able to get Tonyan on a one-year deal. With his production over the last few years, you'd think he should easily have gotten a multi-year contract. Regardless, he is in Chicago and will drastically help the Bears passing game. With him on the roster, the Bears can use a lot of 12 personnel, which helps both the pass and run game.
Going into camp is just over three weeks away, and I feel the plan is to keep three tight ends on the 53-man roster with one on the practice squad. There will be an excellent camp battle among three players for that one job.
Jake Tongas was a UDFA last year out of the University of California. Tongas had a strong pre-season last year and made the 53 to start the season, but was on the practice squad most of 2022. He was activated for four games and was used mostly as a blocker and special teams player. Tongas is athletic and has good play speed, but what helps his cause is he can play the fullback position as well as the tight end spot. His ability to block as a fullback is above average, so if the fullback got injured, he could easily fill in. As an in-line blocker, he is adequate, but the Bears staff would want better. His receiving ability is good enough to be a respectable backup in the League.
The player who could come on this summer is Chase Allen, who was another UDFA last year. Allen played at Iowa State and had a strong career. In fact, I felt he could have easily been a late draft pick. Allen is big (6'6 – 252), runs well and can block. He will never be a deep threat, but he can be a factor in the short passing game, and his blocking is plenty good enough. He has enough athleticism to play both tight end positions but is probably better off inside at Y.
Free agent signee Stephen Carlson is probably a long shot, but he has 25 games of experience in the League and has done a good job on special teams. He lacks great size (6'4 – 240) but runs well (4.77) and despite his lack of size, is a fairly good blocker. He has to have an outstanding camp to push for a roster spot.
The depth of the position going into camp is an issue. One of the above three has to stand out, or the Bears could be looking for their third tight end on the waiver wire. Since the Bears have first priority on all waived players through week three of the regular season, don't be surprised that the Bears bring in a tight end or two for depth purposes.