March 13-- The Bears continued their passing game overhaul Tuesday by agreeing in principle to sign free-agent tight end Trey Burton.
The contract will be for four years and worth $32 million, according to NFL Network. The deal cannot be finalized until the new league year begins at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday.
Burton, 26, is a versatile receiver who had success with the Eagles lining up in various spots in the formation. He's also capable blocker and experienced special teamer. He caught five touchdowns for the Eagles during the 2017 season despite playing behind Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz.
Ertz's presence and the Eagles' commitment to him drove Burton to the open market and, ultimately, the Bears, who continue to build around quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the early stages of free agency.
Burton will be familiar with Bears coach Matt Nagy's offense because it and the Eagles' scheme run by coach Doug Pederson both trace to Andy Reid, the current Chiefs coach and former Eagles coach. The precision passing concepts and option elements will overlap.
Tuesday afternoon, Burton published a farewell message to the Eagles and Philadelphia, expressing gratitude for four years during which he emerged from undrafted free agent to significant contributor.
After thanking a long list of family, teammates, coaches, executives and club personnel in a message threaded together by his spiritual faith, Burton wrote:
"Thank you Philly, it truly was 'special'
Chicago, I'll see you soon. LET'S DO THIS!!"
Burton, 26, had 23 catches for 248 yards in 2017. His biggest contribution, though, was his fourth-down touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles in the Eagles' Super Bowl victory, a play famously known as Philly Special.
The agreement with Burton came just hours after the Bears agreed in principle with former Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson. Even before new deals can be finalized, the Bears agreed with two pass catchers to help Trubisky ignite the passing attack in his second season, making good on their vow to do so.
Burton is a quality route runner with functional speed and strong hands. He can make contested catches and use his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame to box out defenders. He immediately projects to the "F" tight end role that Zach Miller filled last season. As a run blocker, Burton has demonstrated the ability and willingness to square up against linemen who are bigger than he is.
With Burton reportedly signed for $8 million per year, and the Bears heavily invested in 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen, there are questions about how Dion Sims fits going forward.
Shaheen was the in-line "Y" tight end behind Sims last season and improved as a blocker as he got acclimated to the NFL from Division II Ashland University. Of Sims' $6 million salary for 2018, $4 million would become guaranteed Friday if he is still on the roster. If the Bears decide to go with Shaheen over Sims, they could shed the tight end they signed in free agency just last season.
In Sims' first season, he did not materialize as the all-around pass catching threat the Bears touted him to be. He caught only 15 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown in 14 games.
Regardless, the Bears are expected to utilize multiple tight ends in Nagy's offense as he seeks to identify and exploit matchups and incorporate the option game. The team's hope is that Burton will give Nagy formational flexibility similarly to how All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce did for the Chiefs last season.
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