July 19, 2024

Bears News

Bears 2022 free agency primer: Who is available at tight end?

Former New York Giants tight end Evan Engram will reach free agency for the first time this offseason.

Bears tight end Cole Kmet showed improvement from his rookie season to last year. The Bears are banking on him continuing that forward momentum.

Kmet remains on his rookie contract for two more seasons. The Bears will need to add a tight end or two, but Kmet will remain in the top spot.

More tight ends were slapped with the franchise tag than any other position Tuesday. Miami’s Mike Gesicki, Dallas’ Dalton Schultz and Cleveland’s David Njoku were tagged.

Top available tight ends

Rob Gronkowski: If Gronk is, indeed, playing another season, he will be the top tight end on the free-agent market. Is he willing to play without his buddy Tom Brady? The four-time Super Bowl champion never has. He almost certainly will look to play for a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Zach Ertz: A trade to Arizona was the best thing for Ertz. He appeared to be on the decline until the Eagles traded him, and he quickly developed chemistry with Kyler Murray in the Cardinals’ offense. He will command upward of $10 million a year.

Evan Engram: At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Engram is something between a tight end and a slot receiver. He lined up in the slot on 54% of his snaps. Engram could command upward of $7 million-$9 million a year.

Gerald Everett: Everett, 27, had the best year of his career on a one-year contract with the Seahawks. He should cash in this offseason.

Under-the-radar values

Former Packers tight end Robert Tonyan Jr. is coming off a torn ACL, but he caught 11 touchdown passes in 2020. Another NFC North mainstay, former Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin had the best season of his career in 2021. Eric Ebron is coming off a knee injury but said he is fully healthy. Mo Alie-Cox is a former college basketball player who was valuable in the red zone for the Colts, catching four touchdowns on his 24 total receptions. C.J. Uzomah had a career year with Cincinnati. O.J. Howard never quite shined for the Bucs, but a change in scenery might be good for him.

Bears’ level of need

The Bears have a starting tight end in Kmet, but every NFL team needs three or four reliable tight ends. Jimmy Graham and Jesse James are unrestricted free agents. J.P. Holtz is a restricted free agent. Jesper Horsted is an exclusive rights free agent.

The Bears probably find a way to bring back both Holtz and Horsted. Both are good depth pieces. What the Bears do at tight end will depend largely on what their vision is for this offense. Kmet played the majority of his snaps lined up tight in the traditional tight end spot next to a tackle. He lined up in the slot on 37% of snaps. What is coordinator Luke Getsy’s vision for the tight end position?

They probably need an experienced player who can play in the slot at times – much like Graham did when he led the team in touchdowns in 2020.

Best fits for the Bears

Kmet will continue to be the team’s top tight end. Graham probably isn’t worth whatever money he might be asking for at this point in his career.

Re-signing James could be a realistic scenario. Look for the Bears to either take a flier on one of the cheaper free agents – such as Ebron or Howard – or take a shot at tight end in the later rounds of the draft.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.