Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Tight Ends
Key returning players: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker
New additions: Dax Raymond (R)
Key losses: Dion Sims
With a deep collection of receivers, the Chicago Bears’ tight ends could be used in a more understated way on offense in 2019. Still, head coach Matt Nagy will be looking for a big step forward from a pricey free agent signing from a year ago, and a former high draft pick entering year three, both of whom have dealt with injuries in their time in Chicago.
Last offseason, Trey Burton was signed to a four-year contract as one of the most highly coveted free agent tight ends on the market, coming off of a Super Bowl win with the Philadelphia Eagles. He underperformed slightly, to the tune of 569 receiving yards and six touchdowns in year one with the Bears.
Burton also missed the Bears playoff loss in January against his former team with a mysterious groin injury. He underwent surgery this offseason, which prevented him from participating in the Bears’ offseason program. He is expected to be ready for training camp later this month. Any lingering effects from the procedure this season will be problematic for the offense.
Former second round selection Adam Shaheen enters a critical season in year three. Health has been a big concern for him, as he missed all but six games in 2018 and has appeared in just 19 overall in two seasons. At 6-6 and 270 pounds, he has the frame to be a dangerous red zone target and a punishing, in-line blocker in both run and pass sets. Burton and Shaheen could be an excellent, complimentary tandem, but will need to stay on the field for that to happen.
Behind them, Ben Braunecker and rookie Dax Raymond could be competing for one spot to replace the departed and oft-injured Dion Sims. Braunecker is a special teams ace, averaging less than ten offensive snaps per game in 2018. Raymond went undrafted in April out of Utah State, landing with the Bears as a free agent. He has solid athletic traits, but does not stand out in one particular area. He will also be 24 years old when the season starts.
Should Burton and Shaheen stay healthy and take the requisite steps forward, the Bears offense could be on the way to being one of the best in the conference. Should they struggle with inconsistency and injuries again, it could hamper a Super Bowl contender’s chances while their window is open.
Which NFC North team do you think has the best group of tight ends? Let us know in the comments section below.