Chicago Bears 2015 Position Preview: Tight End
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With free agency and the NFL draft completed, the core of the Chicago Bears 2015 roster is in place. There may be an undrafted player who makes the team via mini-camp, like RB Senorise Perry and CB Al Louis-Jean did last year, or a free agent signing of a cap casualty late in the preseason, but for the most part the roster is in place. Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down the Bears depth chart at every position.
The tight end position was one of the few that weren’t thought to be a problem for the Bears going into the 2015 season, but with Martellus Bennett’s ongoing hold out it may end up being a massive hole. I won’t get into the specifics because Boomer covered them last week. My take is that Bennett is a top 5 TE in the NFL and his annual salary ranks 13th at the position and within 500K of backup-quality players like Lance Kendricks and Brent Celek. I have a hard time sympathizing with players who make millions of dollars per year, but when NFL teams can void contracts at any time for no reason… I can’t blame Bennett for trying to be paid a fair amount for All-Pro production.
The Bears apparently are trying to cover their back-sides by signing every available free agent tight end. I kid, but they do currently have 8 tight ends on the roster. From the list of names, I’m hoping they are holding auditions for backup TEs and not trying to replace the Black Unicorn. I’ll breakdown the 7 other tight ends below, but none of them are close to Bennett’s caliber so lets hope he ends his hold out soon.
Position Previews: QB | RB | WR | OT | OG | C | TE
2015 Bears TE Depth Chart:
The Bears have been looking for a 2nd tight end the last few years, but still haven’t found a decent one and would have a massive hole at the position if Bennett’s hold out bleeds into the regular season.
Bennett is coming off a breakout year in which he led all TEs in catches with 90, finished 3rd in yards with 916 and 7th in TDs with 6. He was often Jay Cutler’s safety-valve receiver and losing him certainly won’t make the Bears any better. If the new front office wants to make a statement by jettisoning Bennett, I get it… But the Bears offense will be significantly worse without Bennett.
Of course we still don’t know what the Bears offensive scheme will look like, it could be a Mike Martz-esque scheme that doesn’t utilize the TE at all. I highly doubt that though as new OC Adam Gace used TE Julius Thomas enough to make him a consecutive Pro Bowler. If Gace is planning on running an offense that features a receiving TE like he did in Denver, the Bears don’t have anyone better suited for the role than Bennett.
Hopefully the Bears and Bennett will find a middle ground acceptable to both parties. This season is going to be challenging enough as is for the Bears, they need all of their talent on the field in week 1. Another option could be to trade Bennett. With two years left on his contract, which would be a pretty good deal even with a raise, it’s possible the Bears could swap Bennett for either another TE or to fill another hole in the starting lineup (DE, S, RT).
The Bears acquired Rosario from the Cowboys for their 2014 7th round pick at the end of the preseason last year. Rosario was a valuable run-blocking tight end who played in every game but one for the Bears over the last two seasons but was a non-factor with just 17 catches for 129 yards and 0 TDs. He was at least a solid run blocker in 2013, but last season had a -2.1 run blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus. If Rosario brings nothing to the table as a receiver (proven) and nothing to the table as a blocker (debatable), it’s hard to make an argument that he deserves a roster spot especially when his 9 years of NFL experience pushes his salary to just under a million ($870k). Rosario is a solid vet who isn’t going to hurt the team on the field, but isn’t going to help much either and has zero upside.