In our Training Camp Battles Series, we look at tight end where Zach Miller, Daniel Brown and even Ben Braunecker will fight for two spots.
The Chicago Bears tight end position was a wasteland after Martellus Bennett was traded to the New England Patriots. The Bears had a giant question in Zach Miller and absolutely nothing behind him. A year can make a big difference and it certainly has for the Bears’ tight end position.
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Assuming the Bears carry three tight ends, they’ll have two locks out of those three entering training camp. The first lock goes to Dion Sims. The Bears gave Sims a 3-year $18 million contract with two years guaranteed. The Bears need help blocking from the TE position and Sims will provide just that. The Bears also spent a second round pick on Adam Shaheen. Shaheen may not be a big contributor as a rookie coming out of a small school (Ashland) but the Bears see him as the future at that position and he certainly will have another tight end spot.
Common sense would say that Zach Miller would be the third tight end on the roster and in all likelihood, he will be, but his spot certainly isn’t guaranteed. Miller will turn 33 during the season and has a mountain of injuries behind him, and he’s currently recovering from a foot injury. Miller is on the last year of his contract and only has $500,000 guaranteed, which the Bears could swallow if need be.
If Miller makes the team, he will most likely be the starting tight end, which makes his situation odd. He will either be starting for the Bears or be released. If Shaheen looks good in training camp and is a viable pass-catching threat, that will make Miller expendable.
The other factor here is Daniel Brown. Brown is only 25 and also proved to be a decent receiving threat for the Bears late last season. If Brown looks good, the Bears could start Sims and use Brown on passing downs and work Shaheen into the offense as the season progresses.
Finally, Ben Braunecker is worth a mention. While his rookie season was a quiet one, the Bears still have some belief that he could develop into a reliable NFL tight end. While Braunecker is most likely looking at a practice squad spot, if he has a phenomenal training camp and preseason, the Bears might consider him for the 53-man roster.
The Bears have two young QBs in Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky and they need a reliable short yardage pass catcher for these QBs to rely on. If Brown or Shaheen don’t emerge as ready to be those players for week one, expect Miller to make the roster and start. However, if Brown and/or Shaheen look good in training camp and the Bears feel the QBs can rely on them, Miller will most like be shown the door at Halas Hall.