Position Battle (Starter): None. It’s Zach Miller’s job as long as he’s healthy.
Position Battle (Back-ups): The #2 TE job is wide open for the Bears. It probably depends more on what the Bears are looking at the position. If it’s a 2nd receiving option, then a healthy Rob Housler is the clear favorite. If the Bears would prefer a competent blocker, then Khari Lee has the inside track. If they are looking for a mix of both receiving and blocking, then maybe reclamation project Tony Moeaki wins the job. The dark horse candidate is undrafted free agent Ben Braunecker, who has the potential to be a more balanced and explosive tight end than any of the other backup options.
Position Battle (53-man Roster): The Bears have brought in so many tight ends that they currently have eight on their 90-man roster. They only kept three tight ends on the 53-man roster last year and I can’t see the Bears keeping more than four this season. One or two can be stashed on the practice squad but even that would lead to two or three of their current tight end group being released outright.
If the Bears do manage to keep four tight ends, which is doubtful if the rumors of keeping a fullback are valid, then I doubt they would keep two more on the practice squad with depth needed at so many other positions. My prediction is that three of the tight ends currently on the roster won’t be with the Bears this season.
Assuming everyone is healthy, then Zach Miller, Khari Lee, and Ben Braunecker are locks. I’ll break down the remaining tight ends and their odds for sticking with the Bears in 2016.
Rob Housler – Has the size (6’5, 250), speed (4.55), and soft hands to be a weapon in the passing game, but has yet to fulfill the potential that made him a 3rd round draft pick in 2011. Housler has only started 28 games in five seasons due to a variety of injuries. 2014 was the last time he’s started a game and he averaged 14.3 yards per reception that season, but barely played in 2015 and is a huge question mark health-wise for 2016.
Tony Moeaki – The most established tight end on the Bears roster with 91 career receptions in the NFL. Moeaki hasn’t had a productive season since 2012 though, so he will have to prove he is healthy and close to the version of the player who averaged over 500 receiving yards his first two seasons on the field. If not, the Bears have little invested in Moeaki and will cut him lose if he’s no longer the player he was early in his career.
Gannon Sinclair – Was the only player who spent the whole season on the Bears practice squad. Sinclair has ideal size for a tight end (6’7, 258) and plenty of potential as an inline blocker. His hands and route-running ability are suspect though and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sinclair spends another season on the Bears practice squad.
Greg Scruggs – If that name sounds familiar, it could be because he started at defensive end for the Bears in week 17 last year. They decided to move Scruggs to tight end after four injury-plagued seasons as an NFL defensive end. Scruggs has good size at 6’3, 277 and coming out Louisville had 4.77 speed and good athleticism.
ACL injuries may have sapped some of his explosiveness, but on paper Scruggs has the traits to be an interesting tight end eventually. I don’t think he’s eligible for the practice squad after being in the league this long, so Scruggs will have to transition quickly to his new position to make the team. His best bet might be to show enough value on special teams to be worth keeping while he develops as a tight end.
Joe Sommers – I mentioned rumors that the Bears may be utilizing the fullback position this year and if they do, Sommers is one of the few potential options. At 6’3, 240 with good athleticism (4.61 40-time, 6.90 3-cone, 36″ vertical), Sommers definitely has the potential to play in the NFL at either tight end or in an h-back / fullback role.
It’s a big leap from DII to the NFL so Sommers will most likely be competing with Sinclair for a practice squad spot if he stays at tight end. If the Bears plan on incorporating a fullback often, they may keep both players with Sommers moving to fullback as a backup for Paul Lasike.
Next: Player to Watch & Summary