Bears position breakdown: The tight ends
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Fourth in a position-by-position series of training-camp capsules on every player on the Bears’ 90-man roster. The Bears open training camp on July 20 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
No. 80 Trey Burton
6-3, 235 pounds
Acquired: Signed a four-year, $32 million contract as a free agent in 2018.
NFL Experience: 61 games (five starts) in four seasons with the Eagles.
Background: Signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2014 after playing tight end, H-back, fullback, wide receiver and quarterback at Florida. Made an impact primarily on special teams in his first two seasons but blossomed as a versatile offensive threat under Doug Pederson in 2016 (37-327, 8.8, 1 TD) and 2017 (23-248, 10.8, 5 TDs). Caught one pass for 12 yards in three playoff games and threw a one-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl LI last season.
Notable: Burton has 63 receptions for 629 yards and six touchdowns in his NFL career. He ranked 63rd among NFL tight ends in offensive snaps (300) in 2017 and actually had more special teams snaps (308) than on offense.
The skinny: Giving a complementary player on a championship team more money and a bigger role is a risky proposition, but Burton seems like the right guy at the right place at the right time. He’s in an offense that figures to suit hit versatility and he won’t be asked to do too much.
No. 88 Dion Sims
6-4, 268 pounds
Acquired: Signed a three-year, $18 million contract as a free agent 2017.
NFL Experience: 70 games (36 starts) in five seasons with the Dolphins and Bears.
Background: A fourth-round draft pick (106th overall) by the Dolphins in 2013, Sims was an effective in-line blocker in four seasons with the Dolphins and showed improvement as a receiver — 26 receptions for 256 yards (9.8 avg.) and four touchdowns in 2016. But he was mediocre at best for the Bears in 2017, with 15 receptions for 180 yards (12.0 avg.) and one touchdown.
Notable: Sims’ lone touchdown was a 27-yard catch from Mitch Trubisky in a victory over the Ravens. But he had just six receptions for 67 yards in six games after Zach Miller was injured.
The skinny: Sims was unimpressive as both a blocker and receiver last year and looked like he would be a roster casualty in the offseason. But he’s still here and has a lot to prove. If he doesn’t produce, the Bears likely will have other options — at tight end and elsewhere in Matt Nagy’s offense.
No. 87 Adam Shaheen
6-6, 270 pounds
Acquired: Second-round draft pick (45th overall) in 2017.
NFL Experience: 13 games (seven starts) in one season.
Background: Started his college career as a basketball player but switched to football and dominated the Division II level at Ashland. Drafted as a Rob Gronkowski style of downfield threat, Shaheen was used mostly as a blocker as a rookie. He had 12 receptions for 127 yards and three touchdowns — a two-yard reception and two one-yard receptions. He missed the final three games with a chest injury.
Notable: Shaheen’s 239 offensive snaps last season ranked fourth among Bears tight ends — behind Dion Sims (581), Zach Miller (314) and Daniel Brown (239).
The skinny: The “Baby Gronk” buzz on Shaheen dissipated rather quickly in the second half of last season, replaced by “Baby Kelce” expectations after Matt Nagy succeeded John Fox — not a bad option. But in what is expected to be a diversified offense, Shaheen will have to make the most of his opportunities to get even close to original expectations.
No. 85 Daniel Brown
6-5, 247 pounds
Acquired: Claimed off waivers (Ravens) in Week 8 of 2016.
NFL experience: 28 games (six starts) in three seasons with the Ravens and Bears.
Background: Signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Brown was promoted from the practice squad for the final six games (one start) and caught six passes for 64 yards. He was cut by the Ravens in Week 7 in 2016 and was signed by the Bears. He has helped out mostly on special teams, but had 16 receptions for 124 yards (7.8 avg.) and a touchdown in 2016 and 13 receptions for 129 yards (9.9 avg.) last season.
Notable: All of Brown’s offensive production came in the final nine games after Zach Miller was injured.
The skinny: With Miller out and Trey Burton in, Brown is in a familiar position of battling for a roster spot. Though there’s nothing special about him, as a former wide receiver at James Madison, he might have a better shot in a Nagy offense that uses tight ends every way possible.
No. 84 Ben Braunecker
6-4, 252 pounds
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
NFL Experience: 21 games (two starts) in two seasons with the Bears.
Background: Started his rookie season on the practice squad and was promoted to the 53-man roster in Week 4. Used mostly on special teams in 2016 until Zach Miller suffered a season-ending injury and had four receptions for 41 yards. Spent the first eight games of last season on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster after Zach Miller was injured, but played mostly on special teams in the second half.
Notable: Braunecker played 146 snaps on offense as a rookie, but just four last season. But he had four tackles in eight games on special teams.
The skinny: Braunecker faces another tough battle to make the roster again this season. His special-teams experience could help. The Bears have upgraded their offensive weapons under Matt Nagy, but then again, there are a lot of nuances to Nagy’s offense and Braunecker’s ability to learn quickly might be a factor. But entering camp, it’s a long shot.
No. 82 Colin Thompson
6-4, 257 pounds
Acquired: Signed to the practice squad in 2017.
NFL Experience: None.
Background: Recruited to Florida but transferred to Temple after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot for the second time in three years as a redshirt freshman. After a modest pass-catching career at Temple — 19 receptions for 209 yards (10.9 avg.) and one touchdown — Thompson signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent last year. He was having a pretty good camp when he was cut in the preseason after undergoing an appendectomy. He spent three weeks on the Bears’ practice squad in November. He was re-signed by the Bears in the offseason.
Notable: Thompson was a four-star recruit and rated the No. 2 tight end in the country when he chose Florida over Alabama, Penn State and Stanford among other schools. But he had foot issues in both seasons at Florida and played in only three games for the Gators.
The skinny: Thompson is a strong in-line blocker (he was an honorable mention all-conference tight end at Temple in 2016 despite catching just three passes) but has a lot to prove just to earn a practice squad spot.