Bears

Why Bears TE Cole Kmet’s potential reminds Chris Simms of Rob Gronkowski

Why Bears TE Cole Kmet’s potential reminds Chris Simms of Rob Gronkowski

Cole Kmet’s draft night was incredibly special for him and his family, as Ryan Pace brought the Arlington Heights native back home to play for his beloved Bears. Pace, of course, is hoping that Kmet can be part of the solution to the troubled tight end position, which has been a mostly-unproductive revolving door during his time as GM.

Every pick of the draft is met with plenty of analysis online and on social media, and the Kmet selection was no different. However, this tweet from NBC Sports’ Chris Simms stood out in the moments following the Bears picking Kmet 43rd overall:


 
Lofty comparisons are not uncommon on draft night; plenty of highly-drafted tight ends in recent years have been compared to Gronk, but no one has truly been able to live up to it (Adam Shaheen, anyone?). However, as Simms explained to JJ Stankevitz on the Under Center podcast, there’s a bit more nuance to the comparison that 280 characters doesn’t leave space for on Twitter.

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“Yeah, I compared him to Rob Gronkowski, and Rob Gronkowski is the greatest tight end of all time,” Simms said. “But I’m just trying to paint a picture for people out there; I’m not saying this kid’s going to be that, but he’s got big-time potential is what I am saying.

“I think the Bears need to find that physicality aspect of their offense, and Kmet will be a great advantage not only in the run game, but once teams start worrying about the run game, that’s where the tight end like a Rob Gronkowski in New England gets behind the linebackers and splits the safeties in the middle of the field.

“Cole Kmet is going to be a tremendous red zone target; he is a mismatch nightmare, and I think you’ll be able to do a lot of the same things Kansas City does with Travis Kelce, or Gronkowski and what the Patriots did with him, except he’s a better blocker than Travis Kelce.

“I am very excited about Cole Kmet. I think the Bears really got two first-rounders with their two second-round picks, and that excites me as far as that’s concerned.”

Simms isn’t making a flippant comparison, either; he knows the former Irish tight end better than most due to his work as an analyst for Notre Dame football on NBC over the last two years, and local product from St. Viator stood out for all the right reasons.
 
“He’s one of the more impressive players, in general, that I’ve seen on the field, whether it was on Notre Dame or one of their opponents, in college football. To be that size, 6’5”, 260 pounds, and be able to move the way he moves, there are not a lot of people on Planet Earth that are that gifted and athletic.

“Fluid route-runner, fearless over the middle with people around him, really good run-blocker in the run game, and he’s been playing baseball the last few years in the spring, so he hasn’t even gone all-in on football yet, nor do I think he’s done growing and filling out.”


The Bears certainly hope focusing on football full-time will have a positive effect on Kmet’s developmental arc, as tight ends coach Clancy Barone told reporters in a Zoom session last week. After all, the revolving door has to stop at some point - and if Kmet is able to develop into a star tight end, the 43rd pick will have been a small price to pay.

RELATED: Chris Simms explains why Bears should lean on their defense in 2020

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5 free agents who fit with Bears, from Devonta Freeman to Damon Harrison

5 free agents who fit with Bears, from Devonta Freeman to Damon Harrison

The conventional wisdom with the Bears is Ryan Pace needs to improve depth at running back and defensive tackle ahead of training camp practices starting – finally – next week.

But reality played out a little different this week. The Bears reportedly signed defensive back Marqui Christian Tuesday, adding depth at safety and on special teams. He, essentially, replaces Jordan Lucas – who opted out of the 2020 season – on the Bears’ roster, even though kicker Ramiz Ahmed was cut to make room for him.

It makes sense. The Bears are tantalizingly close to actually seeing their 80-man roster in action, and displacing someone with a big-ish-name free agent might run counter to their plans. Once the Bears can get a look at some of those guys on their roster – like running back Artavis Pierce and defensive tackle John Jenkins – maybe they’ll look to make a move.

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Also: The Bears have about $17 million in cap space right now that can roll over to 2021, which would help offset what could be a $23 million drop in next year’s cap. It might not be a bad idea to save money now and avoid difficult cost-saving cuts later.

But if the Bears do try to pick off some of the more recognizable names available in free agency, these five players could make sense:

DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison

Eddie Goldman’s decision to opt out immediately led a lot of folks (myself included) to Google “Snacks Harrison free agency” to make sure he was still available. The good news: He is! The bad news: He’s reportedly contemplated retirement in the past, and the 32-year-old is thinking about getting into the podcast game…

… which is something someone might do when they’re expecting to have a lot of time on their hands, right?

Harrison had a down 2019 with the Detroit Lions and may not even want to get back into football amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If he does, though, the Bears should certainly consider signing him as a rotational veteran to help soften the blow of Goldman’s opt out.

DT Marcell Dareus

The 30-year-old Dareus only played in six games last year before a core injury ended his season. Listed at 6-foot-3, 331 pounds, Dareus might be the best fit to replace Goldman as an anchor of the Bears’ defensive line – so long as he’s healthy.

Dareus – the third player selected in 2011’s draft – did see his play drop off a bit in 2019 before his injury. Still, he’s an experienced and adept run-stuffer, the kind of guy who could help the Bears’ defense in base and sub packages next to Akiem Hicks.

RB Devonta Freeman

It feels weird that Freeman is still available in mid-August, but he’s an unfortunately perfect example of the short shelf life of running backs. He was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and 2016, ripping off consecutive 1,000-yard rushing years while amassing over 1,000 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns.

His play tailed off in 2017, then was hit by injuries in 2018 and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in 14 games last year. Freeman fired his agent this offseason and signed with Drew Rosenhaus, who said in July he was hoping to get him signed by the end of the month (https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1285726771816673287). You have to wonder if Freeman is asking for more money than teams would be willing to give him. Or, a possibility that would be smarter: Maybe he’s waiting to see if a team needs a No. 1 running back due to a training camp injury or positive COVID-19 test.

Either way, Freeman makes sense for the Bears in that he’d provide a veteran backup to David Montgomery. But do the Bears make sense to Freeman if he’s squarely behind Montgomery on the depth chart? Maybe not.

RB Spencer Ware

A more realistic option at running back, if the Bears want to add to that room, would be a guy in Ware with ties to Matt Nagy. The former Kansas City Chiefs running back had 921 rushing yards and 447 receiving yards in 2016, the first year Nagy was Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator.

MORE: Five things we've learned about Bears' rookies 

A brutal knee injury suffered in 2017’s preseason derailed Ware’s career, and he only played in three games last year after the Chiefs brought him back off the free agent scrap heap. The 28-year-old, though, has familiarity with Nagy’s scheme and could at least provide some much-needed veteran competition for Pierce and former undrafted free agent Ryan Nall.

PK Graham Gano

The Bears dumped Ahmed to make room for Christian, leaving Eddy Pineiro as the only kicker on the roster. Pace’s preference is to find a kicker for cheap after the Cody Parkey disaster, hence last year’s competition and a long leash with Pineiro.

But if Pineiro falters at all during camp, the Bears should probably find room on their 80-man roster for a kicker to compete with him. Gano might cost a little more, and the 33-year-old missed all of 2019 with an injury, but his strong leg and decade of experience would certainly push Pineiro – if not replace him.

 

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Bears waive kicker Ramiz Ahmed, ending kicker battle before it began

Bears waive kicker Ramiz Ahmed, ending kicker battle before it began

For now, Eddy Piñeiro can breath easy: 

You'll remember, the Bears brought Ahmed into the building back in mid-April. The kicker, who played his college ball at Nevada, went 15/20 on field goal attempts in his 2018 senior season. Ryan Pace and co. signed him to push Piñeiro, who had an up-and-down first season in Chicago. As JJ Stankevitz points out, the move likely has to do with the team's reported signing of a defensive back on Tuesday: 

As it stands now, Piñeiro's job is once again safe. For whatever it's worth, it sounds like Piñeiro, who struggled with distance last year, has put on some muscle this offseason. In a recent interview with media, Bears' special team's coordinator Chris Tabor had this to say: 

"I'm going to be honest with you, first day we went out and kicked -- and I hadn't seen him kick since the Minnesota game -- you're looking at a bigger, stronger Eddy Pineiro," he said. "I was very impressed. You could tell that he matured, he's really more comfortable." 

So good news, Bears fans: there will be no summer kicking battle this year. You can put the aspirin away.