Bears could be in position to land top TE in 2020 NFL Draft

Bears could be in position to land top TE in 2020 NFL Draft

The Bears are going to take a long, hard look at the makeup of their tight end room this offseason. Trey Burton, who's teetering on joining a growing list of free-agent busts signed by GM Ryan Pace since 2015, will be back because of his cap hit, but the rest of the depth chart offers more questions than answers moving forward.

Adam Shaheen, 2017's second-round pick, has likely played his last down in Chicago. He's regressed in his third season with the team and after an injury-plagued start to his career, it appears time to move on. Special teams standout Ben Braunecker is likely to be back, but he offers little upside beyond the game's third phase. J.P. Holtz and undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted have been pleasant surprises and may develop into the team's future at the position, but it's a risky proposition to rely on two players who were fringe-NFL guys at the start of the season.

It's highly unlikely Pace will invest more free-agent dollars into tight end because of the hefty paycheck being cut to Burton. He'll have an $8.55 million cap hit in 2020, which ranks among the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL. As a result, Pace will be forced to dip into the 2020 NFL draft class to upgrade the talent level.

Fortunately for the Bears, the second round is where this year's top tight ends are expected to come off the board. In fact, Pace may end up having his pick of the litter if ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's prospect rankings bear out.

McShay, who teamed with Mel Kiper, Jr. to answer the 30 biggest questions at the start of the NFL draft season, doesn't have a tight end with a first-round grade. His highest-rated player at the position just happens to be in the range where the Bears' first selection currently sits.

"Over the past three years, there has been an average of two first-round tight ends, and Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were both top-20 picks last April," McShay wrote. "But don't expect a repeat. No one has really emerged this season like Hockenson, Fant and even Irv Smith Jr. did in 2018. The highest-ranked tight end in my rankings is Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney at No. 49. Unless we see an underclassman rise through the process, I don't see a first-rounder in this group."

The Bears currently own the 45th pick (from Raiders) and 50th pick in the second round.

The bad news is Pinkney isn't the kind of pass-catcher the Bears are searching for Matt Nagy's offense. But the good news is there are a few players in this year's class who offer some upside as a receiver (we'll have a complete breakdown over the coming months). And if Pinkney is considered the best of the bunch, the Bears should have little trouble adding a player who fits their needs at a good value later in the draft.

Maybe Horsted will do enough over the final three games to convince Pace that Chicago already has its young ascending tight end on the roster. But if he doesn't, the Bears will have plenty of options to choose from in April.

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Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has a good eye for talent in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. He nailed picks like Eddie Jackson (fourth round), Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Adrian Amos (fifth round) over the years, and the hope is that one of his Day 3 picks in 2020 will continue that trend.

One player who has a chance to exceed his draft slot is Georgia Southern cornerback, Kindle Vildor, who Pace selected in the fifth round of April's draft. He was recently named the Bears' rookie who could be a surprise gem in 2020.

"We stress confidence when we talk about the corner position," general manager Ryan Pace told reporters. "And [Vildor] definitely has that confidence and that playing demeanor that we look for. A skill set that also translates well to special teams, which is going to be important especially in the early part of his development."

The two-time first-team All-Sun Belt performer will have to beat out a few veterans for reps, but his man-coverage and ball skills should fit favorably in the Bears' defensive scheme.

While most of the post-draft attention has been paid to another Bears rookie cornerback, second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Vildor has a chance to earn significant playing time as a rookie. Only Kyle Fuller is assured a starting job at this point, and while Vildor faces an uphill battle to unseat Buster Skrine for reps, there's no reason to bet against him. Pace has always been a proponent of competition breeding the best results and if Vildor rises to the occasion, the Bears will waste little time inserting him into the lineup.

Vildor ended his college career with 94 tackles, nine interceptions and 25 passes defended.

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    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    Good news, Madden fans: you can officially continue spending $80 to complain about how the game hasn't been good in years. 

    According to Darren Rovell, the NFL and EA Sports have agreed to a 5-year extension: 

    Rovell says his sources have told him that, 'the deal is worth at least $1 billion to the NFL and $500 million to the players. The deal also includes at least $500 million in marketing commitments over the years.' 

    Congrats to everyone involved! Now more than ever, football fans need some good news. There's no tradition as timeless as throwing controllers through TVs and against walls when your friend runs four verticals with a Y skinny post over and over and over again. Madden exists solely to allow people cover to yell at the TV without the presence of, like, a real reason. What would we do without it?