Cole Kmet is the unquestioned starter for the Chicago Bears at tight end. He earned that right after a solid 2021 with over 600 yards receiving. However, it is important to remember that there are different types of tight ends in an offense. Kmet is often designated as a “Y.” That is somebody attached to the offensive line as an extended blocker, yet with the receiving skill to put pressure on the defense regardless of alignment. Then there is the “F” tight end, which is more akin to a big wide receiver. Jimmy Graham filled that role over the past two years. Now nobody on the roster seems like the obvious choice. That is where Sal Cannella comes in.
College football enthusiasts might recognize the name as a part-time weapon for Auburn in 2018 and 2019. Fans swore up and down that he was better than his modest numbers (299 yards and 5 TDs) hinted. His receiving skills were top-notch. All he needed was an opportunity. Unfortunately, a brief stint as an undrafted free agent in Miami didn’t work out. So he took the risk of jumping to the upstart United States Football League, where he joined the New Orleans Breakers.
It proved to be a good decision.
Cannella finished with 368 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games, including a star-making performance in the playoffs against Birmingham. The Stallions defense had no answers for him as he gashed them for 154 yards. It was the first legitimate evidence that he could dominate when given actual opportunities. That was why he was named All-USFL, the unquestioned best tight end in the league.
The thing to remember about the Bears’ new offense is it demands a tight end that is a threat in the passing game. Think Shannon Sharpe in Denver or George Kittle in San Francisco. Cannella might not be as fast as they are, but he has the size, long arms, and natural pass-catching talent required for such a role. Considering how unsettled the situation behind Kmet is, it can’t hurt to give him a shot.
.@salnells gets us on the board first‼️🌊
— New Orleans Breakers (@USFLBreakers) June 12, 2022
Sal Cannella brings a bonus too.
He’s a native of Schaumburg, Illinois. So he grew up in the Bears’ backyard. It would be a fun story to see his triumphant return to the NFL come with Chicago. How cool would it be to see two Illinois natives in he and Kmet making plays on Sunday for the team? It’s not like the team has to worry about money. Their minimum contract offer is significantly higher than even the most expensive USFL version.
It isn’t even a debate whether Sal Cannella would jump at the chance. His primary competition would be veterans Ryan Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy. Both are solid backups with extensive experience. Cannella would have to learn the offense quickly during training camp and put together a strong showing in the preseason.
His time with the Breakers is so valuable in that sense.
He’s anything but rusty at this point. He has the benefit of having played actual games in the previous few months. That gives him a stronger runway to make an immediate impression. It only requires a phone call from GM Ryan Poles.