By Bryan Dietzler
2018 was not the year of the tight end in Chicago. Despite some hopeful improvements to the position, things didn’t get going at the tight end position. Now, the Bears could be using an offense that requires a great pass-catching tight end. But do they have a good one on the roster?
Before we look ahead at what the Bears offense might be like in 2018, let’s take a look back and see how the players at the tight end position on the Bears performed in 2017. There is a look back at their performance, their stats and some insight into where they might end up in 2018 in this, the Bearsgab Chicago Bears Season End Review for the Tight Ends and Fullbacks.
Ben Braunecker-Braunecker did not see a lot of action last season participating in just eight games with no starts. He had no stats as he didn’t see the field often other than special teams. Should the Bears bring in some additional talent at tight end, I would expect Braunecker not to be on the team in 2018. He just isn’t that much of a difference maker.
His contract has one more year on it, and the Bears would take a $630,000 cap hit should he be cut.
Daniel Brown-Brown saw some reps in 2017 playing in 14 games with two starts. He had 13 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns. His average was 9.9 yards per catch. The Bears, believe it or not, could be in the market for some new talent at tight end and Brown may not be in their plans. He is a steady blocker and can catch the ball, but he’s not dynamic or spectacular. His contract has him as an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, so the Bears will have to decide if they want to sign him or not. They have a little less pressure than if he was an unrestricted free agent.
It’s possible they do bring Brown back if they don’t do anything else at tight end this offseason. But they are going to do some work at tight end; you can bet on it.
Adam Shaheen-The Bears’ second-round pick in the draft had a rough start to the year, a decent middle then a little bit of a rough end to it. Altogether, Shaheen played in 13 games with seven starts. He was targeted 14 times having 12 catches for 127 yards. His average yards per catch was 10.6, and he had three touchdowns. Unfortunately, he ended the year with a chest injury and didn’t get to continue his growth. Still, he has a promising future and will be an important part of the Bears’ offense in 2018.
Shaheen won’t be going anywhere in 2018 and will most likely be the team’s starter.
Dion Sims-It’s hard to say what happened to Sims. Either Sims wasn’t as good as expected or the passing game, or lack thereof, really hurt him. His blocking prowess was good and his value there cannot be denied, but his ability to catch the ball was lacking. Last year, Sims played in 14 games starting all 14 and was targeted 29 times catching 15 of those passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. His average yards per catch was 12; he had a long of 27 while his catch percentage was 51.7.
Sims’ contract still has two years on it, but Chicago built in a one year and out clause for 2018. They gave him most of the money up front so if they were to release him before the deadline, they would only take a $666,667 cap hit. It might be worth it to bring someone else on and increase the effectiveness of the tight end position,
Consider Sims’ status for 2018 up in the air.
Zach Miller-Miller is a favorite of many Bears’ fans especially after what he went through in 2017. Miller played in eight games catching 20 passes out of 35 total targets for 236 yards, an average of 11.8 yards per catch and two touchdowns. Miller dislocated his knee catching a call-back touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. In fact, he almost lost his leg.
Now his future is in doubt.
Don’t expect Miller back this year. He has a long road to travel to try to get better, and it’s going to take a while for him to get back to any sort of playing shape. He may never play football again, and that’s the harsh reality of it. Expect him not to be re-signed this offseason and perhaps forced to retire as a Chicago Bear.
The Bears list one player at tight end on the reserve/future list.
Colin Thompson-Thompson was a rookie in 2017 he comes to Chicago as an undrafted free agent from Temple. He was on the practice squad for a bit and will try to make the roster in training camp should he last that long. Look for him to be in the mix for a backup tight end spot or earn another stay on the practice squad this summer.
The Bears had just one fullback on the roster last season.
Michael Burton-The Bears used a fullback this past season. Burton played in all 16 games with three starts. He was targeted four times catching two passes for eight yards. He rushed just four times for nine yards. Burton’s biggest role was as a blocker, and he helped lead the way for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. It doesn’t appear that the new offense will feature a blocking fullback at least the Chief’s offense didn’t and if new head coach Matt Nagy uses a similar offense that means Burton could be out of a job. Consider his status up in the air heading into the 2018 offseason. Contract-wise, he is signed through 2018 and should the Bears release him, they would take a $705,000 cap hit.