As expected, the Chicago Bears cleaned house after the end of the 2021 regular season, parting ways with both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy at the end of the 2021 regular season. The results didn't always present themselves on the field, and their personnel decisions were head-scratching at times.
So now the team is moving forward in a different direction. Ryan Poles, who was previously the Kansas City Chiefs' executive director of player personnel, was hired as the new general manager on Jan. 25. Shortly after that, Poles hired former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to be the team's new head coach.
The Bears have 24 pending unrestricted free agents on their roster (per Spotrac.com) and also have some decisions to make about veteran players that are under contract. It'll be the job of the new front office and coaching staff to decide which players will be a part of the rebuilding effort.
The Bears will have some tough decisions to make at tight end, where three of the five players on the 2021 roster are set to be free agents. This position accounted for 862 of the Bears' 3,635 receiving yards this past season, although the production could have been much higher. But this position has always been a key one for the Bears.
Here is how Chicago's current situation at tight end looks heading into the offseason.
The second-year man out of Notre Dame was the Bears' second-leading receiver behind only wideout Darnell Mooney. He had almost three times as many receiving yards (612) and catches (60) as the rest of the team's tight ends combined. Although he didn't catch a touchdown pass in 2021, and even though he only went over 50 receiving yards in three games, he made the catches when they counted. He's also continued to grow as a pass-catcher to become a vital part of this offense.
Kmet does need to slightly improve his run blocking skills, but he has established himself as the fully entrenched starter for this Bears team. The only question is who will back him up in 2022?
Graham is at the top of the list of pending free agents at this position, but the Bears will certainly have to think long and hard about bringing him back. He missed six games this past season and only had 14 receptions for 167 yards and three touchdown catches (one of them was the game-winner in Seattle) to show for it. Those numbers are a significant drop from 2020 (50, 456, 8). And when you consider his age (35), his recent injury history, his previous drops in production, and the fact that a new administration is in charge, it's easy to see the Bears moving on from Graham.
James signed a one-year deal with the Bears after previous stops in Pittsburgh (2015-18) and Detroit (2019-20) but left much to be desired in Chicago. He was limited to just four games in a Bears uniform because of COVID-19, injuries, and personal reasons. In the end, he only caught seven balls for 62 yards and a touchdown. While his lack of production isn't entirely his fault, he still could have contributed more when he was on the field.
Holtz appeared 13 games for the Bears but only saw action on special teams. Since joining the Bears in 2019, Holtz has only totaled 91 receiving yards and 76 kick return yards. Another pending free agent, Holtz may not be a part of the new regime's plans for the tight end position moving forward.
The former Princeton wide receiver-turned-tight end appeared in just three games (two TD catches) before being placed on injured reserve. But Horsted has made the effort to adapt to his position. He's caught 10 career passes for 108 yards and three touchdowns, all while trying to navigate a crowded depth chart since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He's put in the work to improve his blocking and has added weight to his frame (listed at 241 pounds this past season, weighed 225 pounds when he came into the league). The Bears could give him another season to show that he can succeed in his new position.
While the Bears are hoping Kmet can take another step forward this offseason and become a bigger part of the offense, the team will certainly look to improve the depth behind him.