The number one objective of the 2018 offseason for the Chicago Bears is to give second-year Quarterback Mitch Trubisky the right environment to succeed. To do this, they need to surround him with as many quality receiving targets as possible, and Eagles tight end Trey Burton could certainly fit that bill.
Burton can be an extremely reliable red zone target and give the Bears big plays up the seam and on third down on a regular basis. The question is how much are the Bears willing to pay for a relatively statistically unproven player who was technically a backup in 2017?
I take a closer look here, in a profile for an available player who could upgrade the Bears’ roster.
Burton fits the mold of what I like to call a tight end in name only. Instead of the traditional combo player who excels at blocking and receiving, he more often than not lines up with his hand in the dirt (think Rob Gronkowski). Burton is a player who is positioned sometimes in the slot, sometimes out wide, and doesn’t contribute much to the run game or pass protection but thrives in the red zone and is slightly overweight for a wideout so he’s technically a tight end (like Jimmy Graham).
In 31 targets in 2017, Burton caught 23 passes (an excellent 74% rate) for 248 yards and hauled in five touchdowns to boot. Put on his game tape and you’ll see a player who excels in key third down situations, rarely drops the ball, and has provided a security blanket for young quarterback Carson Wentz. He moves relatively well for his size and displays the route running savvy necessary to thrive in the NFL.
Burton, in his four years in Philadelphia, has established himself as a key cog in the locker room as a bit of a fan favorite. Sources within the Eagles’ fanbase say he’s shown signs of being on the brink of a breakout year if given a larger role and he obviously brings Super Bowl experience now that the Eagles took home the title earlier this month. His obvious connection with Wentz should be a key factor in the Bears’ evaluation, as the Bears will be running an offensive scheme that is extremely similar to what Burton ran in Philadelphia.
Burton is in line for a three year, $22 million dollar contract, give or take a couple hundred thousand dollars. He’s one of the more likely free agents in football to hit the open market, due to his team being around $10 million over the salary cap, already spending top five money at the tight end position, and knowing that they have young players on rookie contracts who will need to be paid soon.
This would be a deal based on potential, not past performance, which general manager Ryan Pace may be timid to try again after the failures of Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims (who will likely be cut, making room for Burton’s assumed salary), and Markus Wheaton.
However, if he declined to offer Burton because of unsuccessful signings in the past it would be a mistake. This would be a relatively cheap contract for a tight end (it would put him in the top 15 or so) and an even cheaper one for a receiver, which Burton essentially is. He also put questions about whether or not he could thrive in a bigger role to bed. In his two games last season with Ertz out due to injury, he put up a combined 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Burton would give Head Coach Matt Nagy a big, agile, versatile target to work with, especially in the red zone. Trubisky, the fanbase, and the rest of his teammates would immediately fall in love with him as a valuable contributor to the locker room and on the field. In the likely event that Burton hits free agency, Pace should be prepared to capitalize and bring in a potent receiving weapon to Chicago.