The Chicago Bears had a lot of problems last season, mostly on offense, as Jay Cutler couldn’t find anyone but Brandon Marshall to throw to. Because of that, it seems like their first point of business in free agency will be to find a tight end, although the market isn’t filled with great ones at the moment.
The Bears’ two tight ends last season, Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, didn’t exactly help Cutler. With the Bears having so many problems in their offensive line, the two of them were primarily used as blockers, like classic tight ends used to do. Davis was targeted 44 times, but dropped four of those passes, and according to Football Outsiders, he was the fourth worst tight end in the NFL last season among those qualifying for the DOVA measurment. Spaeth himself is what you expect from a blocking tight end – terrible as a reciever.
Brandon Marshall was everything for Cutler last season, and when he couldn’t find his favorite target, he had to scramble and scramble again, trying to make something out of nothing. Marshall absorbed 192 targets, third most in the league behind Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne, and he had to do this because the Bears had no other receivers who could beat man coverage.
Going after a wide receiver is also an option for the Bears, but they are waiting for Alshon Jeffery and despite their cap space might not be going after the big names like Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe, both likely to be retained by their current teams. So who’s out there for them at tight end? Dustin Keller of the New York Jets is one option, but Keller might be getting the franchise tag from the Jets. Jared Cook of the Tennessee Titans is probably a better player than Keller, but he is also an option for a franchise tag by the Titans.
Who isn’t getting franchised and is an option at tight end that can help the Bears? James Casey is hardly used by the Houston Texans, and is more of what you usually call an H-Back, but in a market without a lot of options, Casey might be the best thing the Bears can hope for, unless they take Zach Ertz of Stanford with the 20th pick. The best TE heading into the NFL from College, Ertz is projected to end up in the late first round, but the Bears might surprise many by taking him rather soon.