Bears Have Need To Fill At Tight End

Bears general manager Ryan Pace
Photo credit Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports
(670 The Score) Ahead of the 2018 season, the Bears envisioned their tight end position creating mismatches in coach Matt Nagy's offense and complementing their other weapons on the field.

So how did that go and where does the position stand now? That's a question for debate and something Bears general manager Ryan Pace must re-evaluate this offseason.

"We got a good variety of people there," Pace said at the NFL Combine last week. "I think we can never have enough depth there."

As the new league year approaches next Wednesday, bringing the start of free agency, the Bears' lone tight ends under contract are Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. The team released veteran Dion Sims in February in a salary cap-clearing maneuver and has two impending free agents in Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker (restricted free agent).

For Pace, the looming question is near the top of the depth chart and whether the Bears have can garner enough production at the position. Burton had 54 receptions on 76 targets for 569 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. Shaheen played in only four games after suffering a foot/ankle injury in August. He also missed a November game due to a concussion. When healthy, he had five catches and a touchdown.

The Bears were reminded of the importance of Burton as their offense sputtered without him in a wild-card round loss to the Eagles. They also have found that the 2017 second-round pick Shaheen can't be counted upon. While Brown and Braunecker were solid in their roles, the depth Pace acknowledged as a need refers to a playmaking role in the offense. Those latter two weren't playmakers.

Tight end isn't the glaring need of kicker, but the Bears could address it in free agency next week. There are pass-catching options available on the open market in Jesse James, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Tyler Eifert. Jeff Heuerman and Tyler Kroft represent cheaper options with some upside.

Should the Bears choose to allocate their cap room for a greater priority like nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan, they can instead address the need in a deep draft class at tight end. Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger and Notre Dame's Alize Mack are among those who could provide the kind of threat that the Bears are seeking. The Bears own five picks in the draft -- the first at No. 87 overall -- and could use one on a tight end on the second or third day.

Both Nagy and Pace have expressed their optimism in Shaheen developing in his third season, and that would bode well for Burton and the entire offense. But the Bears seem to understand they can't rely on the two as a tandem. That certainly became clear in 2018.

Some added playmaking depth and variety could benefit the Bears, and that opportunity should be there.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​