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Tight End Help Is Out There for Bears If They Want It

By Gene Chamberlain,


Cole Kmet's backups produced nearly nothing last year and are free agents so the Bears could explore free agency again.

One of the only truly dependable producers in the Bears offense for 2022 was Cole Kmet.

After their tight end's slow start as a receiver but not as a blocker, he kicked it up a gear and led the team with 50 receptions while leading receiver Darnell Mooney was out injured down the stretch.

"I thought Cole did a really good job," said GM Ryan Poles, who now will need to get Kmet a contract extension. "I thought he elevated his game from the film that I watched last year to what it was this year. So that’s exciting.”

However, the Bears were a one-tight end team, basically. They got six total receptions from their other two tight ends on 12 targets.

So with both Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco unrestricted free agents, it's reasonable to assume they might be in the free agent market at tight end or even the draft to bring in another player. Unless they think Jake Tonges is capable of elevating from the practice squad to be a second tight end, this could be the case.

There is no guarantee they'd be looking for any of the top free agent tight ends like Dalton Schultz, Irv Smith Jr. or Evan Engram, though.

Based on the history of this offense the Bears are using, there is no reason to think they really see a need for a second tight end who can produce big numbers beyond bringing in someone who could be a backup in case of an injury to Kmet.

The Packers used this offense while Bears ofensive coordinator Luke Getsy was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator but never fully used the second tight end for anything besides occasional blocker unless there was an injury.

In 2019 their second, third and fourth tight ends combined for 25 receptions. In 2020 their second, third, fourth and fifth tight ends combined for the same number.

In 2021 they had no tight end with more than 25 receptions.

After Getsy left last year, their second, third and fourth tight ends combed for 23 receptions.

So this is a position of low importance in the eyes of the team and either drafting one of the better tight ends or signing one in free agency seems to make little sense.

A player who can fill in during an emergency or provide a catch every four or five games while blocking in two- or three-tight end packages is all they require.

If someone decided to throw money at something they have shown no desire utilize, here's what's available to the Bears in free agency.

Dalton Schultz, Cowboys

The 26-year-old Dallas tight end has 211 career catches for five years and 17 total TDs. Last year he had 57 for 577 yards and five TDs and he's been projected to be worth $15.1 million a year on a contract by, which makes him the most valued tight end in the free agent crop.

Irv Smith Jr., Vikings

It might be good for the Bears just to sign him because 12 of his 91 career catches came against them. Smith hasn't been able to sustain health or consistency but shows great flashes of talent. Last year due to injury he had just 25 receptions for 182 yards and two TDs, but this hasn't kept from estimating his annual value at $10.2 million. This for a receiver averaging 30.3 catches per season.

Evan Engram, Jaguars

He bet on himself by taking a one-year deal with the Jaguars last year and won with 73 receptions for 766 yards and four TDs. Anyone looking for a U-type tight end, like the Bears, should take a good look at this 28-year-old. He can also split out at wide receivers at 6-3, 240, which is close in size to Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool

Foster Moreau, Raiders

He's a sort of forgotten piece with Darren Waller in Las Vegas but managed 33 catches for 420 yards and two TDs. The 6-4, 250-pounder is going into his fifth year after averaging 22.3 catches a season and excelling as a blocker. estimates his value at $9 million a year.

Mike Gesicki, Dolphins

Highly productive for his first four years, the 25-year-old Gesicki took a step back because the Dolphins had spectacular wide receivers take over. Still, he caught 32 passes for 11.3 yards a catch and five TDs last year. He has 231 receptions for five years and 18 TDs and as a playmaking tight end he might be the best player per dollar in this group of free agents with a estimate of $8.2 million a year.

Hayden Hurst, Bengals

Hayden Hurst had his lowest yards-per-catch and just two TD catches while chasing Joe Burrow passes. Hurst did have 52 receptions, which is a good number considering he had wide receivers like Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins taking away touches. He's projected at $6.8 million a year.

Austin Hooper, Titans

With 41 receptions for 444 yards last year, Hooper showed a tight end who doesn't start can produce. He had just two starts. However, he had only two TDs and like Hurst, will be going to his fourth team if he signs elsewhere. says it will cost $6.7 million a year.

Robert Tonyan, Packers

Would Luke Getsy like to be reunited with his former Packers tight end? Well, it would be good to have a player like Kmet who can block or receive but only as a backup. The 28-year-old Tonyan had three more catches than Kmet last year with Aaron Rodgers as his passer and only 470 yards with two TDs. estimates the price is $5 million a year.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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