We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears. It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.
Desmond (Dez) Clark started his NFL career as a 6th round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1999. Clark was a wide receiver at Wake Forest and finished his college career as the all-time ACC leader with 216 catches. The Broncos moved him to tight end where he was buried behind Shannon Sharpe and Dwayne Carswell on the depth chart. By his 3rd year with the Broncos, Clark earned some playing time and had a solid season with 51 catches for 566 yards and 6 TDs. Despite his productive 2001 season, the Broncos released Clark in the off-season. He was picked up by the Dolphins but played sparingly due to an injured arm and only had two catches in the 2002 season.
The Bears signed Dez Clark before the 2003 season to compete with young TE Dustin Lyman. Clark quickly developed a rapport with QB Kordell Stewart and won the starting job. He had a solid first season with the Bears, finishing 3rd on the team with 44 catches. Clark established himself as a reliable, if unspectacular, starting tight end over the next couple years before his breakout season in 2006. The Bears went 13-3 in 2006 and Clark again finished 3rd on the team with 45 catches for 626 yards and 6 TDs. Clark was quiet during the Bears’ playoff run (2 catches, 43 yards) but had a big game in the Bears Super Bowl loss to the Colts (6 catches, 64 yards) leading the Bears in both catches and receiving yards.
Clark posted similar reception numbers the next two seasons (44, 41) through his touchdowns declined (4,1). He also started every game for the Bears for 4 straight years (2005-2008) and was rewarded with a 2-year contract extension before the 2008 season. Clark’s declining numbers in 2008 corresponded with the Bears drafting TE Greg Olsen in the first round that year. Before the 2009 season, it was a heated battle between the young Olsen and seasoned vet Clark for the starting job, but Clark injured his back in the first game of the 2009 season and missed the next five. By the time Clark returned, Olsen was off to a good start (3 TDs) and Clark was the #2 TE from that point on. He finished the 2009 season with just 19 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs.
The Bears brought in offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2010 and his offense barely utilized 1 tight end, so as the backup Clark found himself on the inactive list most Sundays. He only appeared in 5 games and had 1 catch for 12 yards on the season. It was the last year of his contract, but the Bears did re-sign Clark before the 2011 season only to release him one month later in final cuts. Clark never played in another NFL game and officially retired a year later. Clark ended up spending 8 years with the Bears and six of those as the Bears starting tight end. He finished his career with 242 catches, 2,639 yards and 18 TDs. His 242 catches is 2nd all-time for Bears tight ends behind only the legend Mike Ditka.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.