In one of the more surprising moves of the legal tampering period, the Chicago Bears have agreed to terms with tight end Trey Burton on a four-year deal worth $32 million. While the guaranteed money hasn’t been released yet, this is a massive shake-up to the Bears offense under new head coach Matt Nagy.
Just a few hours after landing wide receiver Allen Robinson, the Bears decided they needed to upgrade the tight end position, which was odd considering they spent a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen just last year. Still, we should have probably saw the writing on the wall when the Bears were rumored to be interested in Jimmy Graham on the first day of the legal tampering period. Nagy has said that he’ll build the offense around the team’s strengths, though it appears he’s looking for the Bears’ version of Travis Kelce.
Some casual fans may have never heard of Burton, and that’s likely because he’s been a backup tight end on the Eagles the last few years. But when asked to step in and make an appearance, Burton didn’t disappoint. There were two games in 2017 where starter Zach Ertz was forced to miss a game due to injury, and in those games, Burton stepped in and caught 7-of-10 targets for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Even going back to the 2016 season, Burton saw six or more targets in four of the last five games as Ertz’s replacement.
Some big-name NFL executives around the league believed that Burton would be the biggest name in the tight end free agent market, ahead of names like Jimmy Graham and Tyler Eifert. After seeing him land $32 million on day two of the legal tampering period, it’s fair to say they may have been right. The question now becomes – what do the Bears do with him and Shaheen together?
Knowing that tight ends rarely come into the league and make an impact in the first few years of their career, it’s really no wonder the Bears wanted to shore up the position and not rely on a 23-year-old to handle a lot of targets. Coming from Andy Reid’s tree of coaching that utilizes the tight end position very heavily, Burton should be targeted an awful lot.
It’s difficult to project an offense with a first-time NFL head coach, so trying doesn’t make all that much sense until we know all the pieces that are in place. What we do know is that Shaheen was more of an in-line tight end during his rookie season, while Burton is a tight end who’ll be moved all over the formation, including playing out of the slot.
The Bears receiving corps is now expected to be Allen Robinson and Kevin White on the perimeter with Cameron Meredith in the slot and Burton at tight end. While Robinson is sure to garner at least 120 targets, the rest are up for grabs. With the Bears putting an original round tender on Meredith (he was undrafted), it doesn’t reek confidence that he’ll be back. If he were to be back, it also doesn’t say they expect him to have a significant role. As for White, I think we all know where everyone stands on him, which is they’ll take whatever they can get.
When you pay a tight end $32 million, it’s fair to say that you’re going to use him. The stat you need to know from a fantasy perspective is the number 85. That’s how many targets you’d like to see for Burton. Why? Because there’ve been 62 tight ends who’ve hit that number over the last five years. Of those 62 tight ends, 49 of them (79 percent) finished as top-12 fantasy options and 56 of them (90 percent) finished as top-15 options. Unless the Bears add another big name in free agency, Burton should be projected to hit that number. Because of that, break out your fantasy checkbooks, because Burton is likely to be drafted as a top-12 tight end.
Miss any of the other big-name free agent signings? We’ve got you covered with the links below.
Allen Robinson to the Bears
Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs
Case Keenum to the Broncos
Kirk Cousins to the Vikings