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Evan Engram’s contract and its impact on Cole Kmet

How much will Evan Engram’s new contract impact the Bears’ negotiations with Cole Kmet?

Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ryan Poles has not hidden his love for Cole Kmet. The first name he singled out, besides Justin Fields, when he addressed the media in January was to talk about how much he was impressed with Kmet this past season. With Kmet eligible for a contract extension this offseason, Poles’ comments back in January certainly pointed that he wanted to get that done.

The Chicago Bears still have money to spend to reach the minimum spending threshold. They will probably need two more significant contracts prior to the start of the 2024 league year. At this point, the only way to reach that threshold is going to be by trading for a player and extending him, or extending existing players on the team.

For the Bears, those players would be Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Jaylon Johnson and Kmet. So let’s focus on Kmet and where his contract could be valued. The Jacksonville Jaguars had put the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram earlier this offseason and they were able to hammer out an extension just before the deadline to do so.

So let’s try to take a look inside the room on negotiations. When Kmet’s team sits down with Ryan Poles and Cliff Stein, they are going to talk about what Poles said about Kmet in January. They are also going to admit that Cole wants to stay in Chicago, but they are going to talk about how the local kid from Notre Dame is popular with the fan base.

From there, the agent is going to bring up Evan Engram’s deal and talk about how he just received $13.75 million per year. On a 4-year deal, which is the traditional length of these deals, that works out to $55 million for the length of the contract.

The Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews signed a 4-year deal worth $56 million, but he did that two years ago. No one is going to pretend that Kmet is Andrews, but contracts continue to grow and the fact that Andrews deal is two years ago will be far less important in contract negotiations than that of Engram.

The one thing agents love to use is statistics, especially when they help their clients. So let’s take a look at Engram’s stats and compare them to Kmet.

Engram averaged 10.5 yards per catch compared to Kmet’s 10.9. Engram had just 4 touchdowns on the year compared to Kmet’s 7. Their catch rate’s were comparable. Engram’s was 74.5% last season, Kmet’s was 72.5%. Those numbers point to an almost identical yards per target of 7.8 for Engram and 7.9 for Kmet.

Now in negotiations, the Bears might point to their total receiving yards. Kmet had just 544 yards last year and Engram had 766. But the Jaguars passing offense was far more prolific. That means when you look at their share of the passing attack, Engram was at 18.5%. Kmet, however, was at 20.9%.

Bottom line, when you look at the statistics, their numbers are really even. Now, look at blocking. While they don’t technically play the same position, Kmet is the inline “Y” tight end and Engram is more of a “move” tight end. For the purpose of negotiations, they both play tight end, end of story. Kmet is clearly the better blocker. And when you add in age, Kmet sits four and a half years younger than Engram.

When you look at the numbers, Kmet’s agent has a pretty easy argument to ask for more money than Engram. Now, Kmet’s team isn’t stupid. They know Chase Claypool is here for the full season. They know DJ Moore has arrived. They know Darnell Mooney is healthy. The passing game will be much improved this season, but Kmet’s share of the offense could certainly drop in 2023.

That means Kmet’s team will be motivated to make sure a deal gets done in August before the season starts. They will probably settle for at or less than what Engram received. I think a four-year deal worth in the range of $50 to $52 million is certainly on the table.

Personally, I’d like to see Kmet settle for a 4-year deal in the range of $44 million. I just think that these negotiations favor Kmet. They know the Bears still need to spend money, they know they like Kmet, and they know the stats show Kmet is comparable to Engram (even if the film doesn’t necessarily support that).

The negotiations next month should be interesting. If the Bears are willing to pay Kmet north of $50 million, Poles and Matt Eberflus are going to have to be confident that the best of Cole Kmet is still yet to come.