It is becoming evident that Ryan Poles’ plans for the Chicago Bears tight end position differ significantly from his predecessor, Ryan Pace. The latter tended to value size when determining how to approach it. His three most significant additions between 2017 and 2020 were Adam Shaheen, Jimmy Graham, and Cole Kmet. All of them are 6’6 or taller. Size doesn’t seem to factor into what Poles wants for the new Bears offense.
That changed following the latest tweak at the position. Former undrafted free agent and perennial fan favorite Jesper Horsted saw his time with the organization end due to a failed physical. He was released on Wednesday, May 11th. At the same time, the Bears claimed 24-year-old Rysen John off waivers from the New York Giants. At 6’7, 240 lbs, he may now be the tallest player at his position on the team.
The #Bears waived TE Jesper Horsted with a failed physical designation.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) May 11, 2022
We have claimed TE Rysen John off waivers.@Hyundai | #DaBearshttps://t.co/nfpVkwzEQA
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) May 11, 2022
So what exactly are the Bears getting?
The obvious description for John is “project.” He was a wide receiver for Simon Frazier University up in Canada. He certainly made an impact, scoring 16 touchdowns over his final two seasons (20 games) with the program. While that wasn’t enough to get him drafted, the 4.6 time he ran in the 40-yard dash despite his size told teams he might have considerable potential as a tight end.
It wouldn’t be the first time a player has successfully made such a transition. Darren Waller was drafted as a wide receiver by Baltimore in 2015. After a failed rookie campaign, the Ravens switched him to tight end. It didn’t work out there, but after joining the Raiders, his career blossomed, and he became a Pro Bowler. It isn’t surprising that Poles, who comes from Las Vegas’ division rival Chiefs, might see similarities between the two.
4 verts gives Rysen John a 25 yard catch! pic.twitter.com/Y4miJAHr4f
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) August 22, 2021
DAMN!!! What a catch by Rysen John, he went up and high pointed that ball. 🏈💪🏾💯 @SFUFootball @ryflyguymy19 pic.twitter.com/11MIj2LHj0
— Jaden S (@Jadenfootball23) November 2, 2019
Chicago Bears are trying to get more explosive.
That has become evident in every move they’ve made regarding their offensive weaponry. Every wide receiver they’ve added has a reputation of running in the 4.4 range at least. It’s apparent Poles is doing much the same at tight end, adding guys who were 4.6 or better. He wants guys that can stress defenses with their legs, opening up more space vertically. That is why he drafted Velus Jones in the 3rd round and signed guys like Byron Pringle.
John figures to be an attempted step in that direction. He has enough juice to stress secondaries up the seam, something that Cole Kmet has proven inconsistent at. The idea behind this is to help Justin Fields and create more cushion for the running game. Remember that the best outside-zone offenses in the NFL often had tight ends capable of making plays down the field. George Kittle in San Francisco. Owen Daniels in Houston. Shannon Sharpe in Denver.
John isn’t on their level, but his arrival sends a similar message.
Maybe he takes that Waller leap, or he’s merely a cheap flier the Chicago Bears can evaluate during training camp. There is no harm in trying. If it works out? Fantastic. If not, Poles will keep trying until he finds the guy he’s looking for.