In 2018, everybody felt Jordan Howard was the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears offense. He’d proven it for the past two years. Nothing seemed to change that season. When the team needed a boost offensively, they began leaning on him. However, rumblings began to surface that new head coach Matt Nagy wasn’t enthralled with the running back due to his lack of speed, explosiveness, or versatility. Sure enough, Howard was traded the following offseason to Philadelphia. This was proof that nobody is ever safe when changes are made at the top. It is why Cole Kmet shouldn’t be factored into the Bears’ long-term picture.
It is understandable why many fans are doing this. He’s the top pick of the 2020 draft. The team invested a lot into believing he could be a focal point of the offense. Thus far, the returns have been underwhelming. In 33 games, Kmet has 88 catches for 855 yards and two touchdowns. While not terrible, it isn’t the sort of production befitting a supposed top tight end. Especially when you throw in the fact he also has seven dropped passes.
Thus we come back around to why his future in Chicago is suspect.
The new men in charge. GM Ryan Poles made his expectations for the Bears roster clear from his opening press conference. He wants a team built around speed. Coming from Kansas City, his standard for the tight end position is Travis Kelce. A three-time All-Pro and likely future Hall of Famer. Kelce has the sort of explosiveness that Kmet is lack. Something demonstrated in their 40 times. Kelce ran a 4.63 while Kmet managed only a 4.70. It may seem like a small gap, but it isn’t.
Poles isn’t the only one who might be a skeptic either. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has also experienced a different level of explosion at the position. Next month, Robert Tonyan, who is a free agent, had 13 touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers in 2020. He ran a 4.58 in the 40 coming out of college. People love to say those 40 times don’t always determine if a player is truly fast or not, but it is still plenty accurate.
Cole Kmet will be on a short leash in 2022
One thing going in his favor is that Poles and the coaching staff aren’t likely to prioritize tight end in their offseason plans. Not with greater needs at both wide receiver and the offensive line. The Bears don’t have enough resources to overhaul every position. That said, there is still a possibility they look for competition. Both the free agent market and the upcoming draft could feature viable options.
The aforementioned Tonyan is worth watching. So are Eric Ebron, Evan Engram, and David Njoku. All of whom have more speed to offer than Cole Kmet. As for the draft class, the looming scouting combine in Indianapolis will be big. The Bears will see most of the top prospects at the position run. Whoever posts strong 40 times figure to become prominent options in the draft if they’re available outside the first two rounds.
Time was already becoming a factor for Kmet going into this year.
Now the clock is ticking louder than ever. He needs a standout performance this season if he is going to win people over in that building. No one doubts his work ethic, but it has to start showing up on the stat sheet. The good news is Getsy has promised to work more to his players’ strengths in the new offense. If the Bears do that, then Kmet might deliver on what was expected of him two years ago.