The Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach in 2018 after his successful five-year run on Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City. Nagy served as Reid's offensive coordinator (2016-2017) and was expected to bring Chicago a similar attack that was so productive for the Chiefs led by quarterback Alex Smith, running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
One of the big free-agent moves GM Ryan Pace made during Nagy's first offseason with the team was the addition of Trey Burton, whom they signed from the Eagles to play the Kelce role for the Bears. The athletic career backup was inked to a hefty (and risky) four-year, $32 million contract considering he had just 63 receptions and six touchdowns over four seasons in Philadelphia. To be fair, his playing time was blocked by Zach Ertz, but his production — or lack thereof — made his signing based on a projection moving forward rather than an established resume.
After five weeks (four games played) into his second season in Chicago, Pace's gamble hasn't paid off. Burton had just 54 catches for 569 yards and six touchdowns in 2018, numbers that ranked him among the middle of the pack at his position. He, much like the rest of the Bears' offense, has regressed mightily in 2019. He's managed just 11 catches for 57 yards in four games (147 total snaps). Burton currently ranks 46th among tight ends in receiving yards.
Compare his production to his $8.55 million cap hit in 2019, which is the fourth-highest among tight ends.
Burton's season got off to a rough start. He was hobbled in training camp because of a groin injury, one that forced him out of Week 1's game against the Packers. He was limited to just 26 snaps in Week 2 (11 passing plays) and didn't resume his normal starting-level workload until Week 3. The bye week should help Burton as much as anyone on this roster, considering he's really just finishing what would be a healthy player's preseason schedule.
Chicago's offense desperately needs Burton to become the guy the Bears thought he'd be when they signed him. The best friend of any young and developing quarterback is a bailout pass-catching tight end, something Mitch Trubisky hasn't had in his three full starts this season. There's a huge opportunity for Burton to hoard non-Allen Robinson targets in the second half of the season, assuming his route-running and play on the field merit it. At his price tag, it better.
Bears tight ends have totaled just 22 receptions on the season (including Burton's 11). There are eight players at the position in the NFL who have more than that by themselves through five games, including Kelce and Ertz, who Burton was supposed to emulate. Simply put, Chicago's tight ends have failed.
There just isn't much to get excited about behind Burton right now. Former second-round pick Adam Shaheen's development has been limited by injuries, but that excuse is getting stale. He's evolved into more of a run-blocking tight end, which wasn't what was envisioned when he was pegged as a promising prospect out of Ashland University. There were actually Rob Gronkowski comps when Shaheen was a draft prospect; that ship has sailed.
And look, there's nothing wrong with having a quality run-blocking tight end on the roster. But with the Bears' offense struggling to make plays through the air, Shaheen's lack of development in that part of his game is disappointing.
Ben Braunecker? J.P. Holtz? With all due respect, they're 'JAGS' (just a guy).
So it all comes down to Burton, which it should. He's getting paid to deliver as a playmaker, but through five weeks and a 3-2 start, the Bears simply aren't getting those returns.