Most of the talk in regards to the Chicago Bears roster depth has centered on two positions. Cornerback and offensive tackle. This isn’t a huge surprise. Both positions hold great importance to any roster. The Bears do have significant question marks in those areas. However, this made it easy to overlook another one that was kind of flying under the radar at tight end.
It is common knowledge that the Bears have a nice one-two punch in veteran Jimmy Graham and second-year talent Cole Kmet. They were a solid pairing in 2020 and have a chance to be even better this year. The problem is who sits behind them. Not a lot. Demetrius Harris is gone. J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, and Jake Butt stood out as the only noteworthy options. Not an inspiring group.
Bears brass seemed to reach a similar conclusion.
So they decided to go find a little more help according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. They came to an agreement with veteran tight end Jesse James, most recently of the Detroit Lions. The 27-year old caught a couple of touchdowns last season. One of them against the Bears. While not an explosive playmaker in the passing game, he proved he can be a reliable target during his four seasons in Pittsburgh.
Where James can really help the Bears is his blocking. At 6’7, 250 lbs he is an imposing figure and knows how to use that frame to full advantage. He has good awareness in space and always seems to find the key block to pop open lanes for running backs. He’ll also hold his own in pass protection. This gives Chicago some much-needed flexibility in case Kmet gets injured.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 25, 2021
Chicago Bears look much better at tight end now
Graham and Kmet will hold the primary spotlight but head coach Matt Nagy is known for getting other players at that position involved. So having more depth is crucial. James is experienced, versatile, and unselfish. A blue collar player. Such types are always welcome on teams. He should be an immediate help for the running game. While it’s early to proclaim him a lock for the roster, he has more credibility than anybody he’ll compete against next month.
If he can grasp the playbook quickly, it is a safe bet he’ll be the #3 tight end for the Chicago Bears by opening day. The question will then be whether they carry a fourth guy. If so, the two names to watch are Holtz and Butt. Holtz has experience playing the fullback role. Something Nagy may want to keep around. Butt has a long injury history but is also far more proven as a pass target.
It comes down to what the Bears want more of.
Put it this way. A trio of Graham, Kmet, and James is superior to the trio that was Graham, Kmet, and Harris last season. James is every bit as good of a blocker as Harris supposedly was and is a much more reliable receiver. Barring an injury, expect him to find his way onto the final 53.