The Bear Goggles On Countdown to Kickoff series is now underway for the second season in a row. With 86 days left to go until the Bears season kicks off, we will highlight the Bears player that is wearing number 86, tight end Zach Miller.
Zach Miller had a solid start to the 2016 NFL season but ended up on injured reserve following the Bears’ Week 11 game against the New York Giants. In that game, he broke his foot. Miller had four touchdowns up to that point including a two touchdown game against Dallas. He was reliable and had become a nice target for whoever was passing the ball for the Bears. But, as has been the case with Miller several times before, he was unable to finish the season due to an injury.
The Bears have a lot of depth at the tight end position. They drafted Adam Shaheen and signed free agent Dion Sims. They have some other guys, including Ben Braunecker, and Daniel Brown, among others, that will make competition hot in training camp this summer. So where does Miller stand?
Miller, right now, is the best tight end the Bears have on the roster, but he has one problem. Health. He has a very difficult time staying healthy. In his now six seasons (he is starting his sixth) in the league, he has never made it a full 16 games. He came close in 2015 (Bears), and 2010 (Jacksonville) with 15 games played in each season, but he has ended the other four much earlier. If he could make it a full season, he could be considered a pretty solid tight end. But he just can’t stay healthy.
Training camp is going to be important for Miller. If he gets hurt and misses a lot of time, he could be gone. But getting hurt won’t be his only worry. There is a lot of talent at this position, and the Bears may be looking to try to go younger. If that’s the case, Miller may be the odd man out. But he has a lot of talent and should remain with the Bears with a solid and healthy training camp. But if a youth movement is on, he may be gone.
Should Miller make it to the regular season roster, then he will be the first or second tight end. He has proven himself to be a reliable target and has speed. He could easily develop a relationship with quarterback Mike Glennon and make a lot of plays. He’s got the experience; he has the talent. Miller just needs to be on the field regularly.
Miller will work out well as a pass-catching tight end who could be a true threat in the red zone. The Bears have found out before that this is his specialty. He can also take passes far down the field as he is sneaky fast. With his reliable hands and ability to run after the catch, he could be a top-tier tight end. But can the Bears get him the ball? That could be an issue on its own.
With good health, Miller can succeed. Without it, he will not be a Bear much longer.
In the off-chance Miller does not make the final roster at the end of training camp, the Bears will have $500,000 in dead cap space to deal with. That’s not a significant amount of money for them to have to worry about.
Future with the Bears
You may notice a recurring theme in this article. Can Miller stay healthy? Can he stay on the field? Ultimately, it boils down to whether he can be relied upon to do that. His health will determine his future.
Miller signed a two-year $5.5 million extension with the Bears last March, so this is his make or break year. It’ easy. If he does well and makes it a full season without being hurt, he should earn a one year deal next off-season. But, it will be no more than a one-year deal. Should Miller not make it through a full season, he will not be back in Chicago next year.