Why Trey Burton might be one of the most valuable pieces in the Bears' 2018 playoff run

Why Trey Burton might be one of the most valuable pieces in the Bears' 2018 playoff run

Though he may not be the most important offensive player for the Bears’ 2018 playoff run, tight end Trey Burton may end up proving to be the most valuable. Burton, who signed a four-year contract with the Chicago a little over a month after winning Super Bowl 52, has what the vast majority of this Bears roster does not: experience making plays on the NFL’s biggest stage. 

He was, as you surely know, the quarterback for the infamous “Philly Special” play that’s come to define last season’s champs. 

“I couldn’t give you a percentage, but it will always be part of my life, my family’s life, no one can ever take the Super Bowl away from us,” Burton said when asked about the play’s role in his career. “It was an unbelievable time. But now I’m here. I’m excited to be here.”

That experience -- and Burton’s composure in it -- make up a sizeable part of why head coach Matt Nagy considers Burton one of the team’s (admittedly softer-spoken) leaders. Many of the players who will be playing playoff football for the first time, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky, have already talked with him about what to expect.

“I would say everything is magnified,” Burton said. “People from the outside make every play and every second, they put it on this huge pedestal where in reality it’s just a football game. We’ve been playing 16 or 20 or 21 of them this year, and it’s nothing different than that.”

For Trubisky specifically, Burton talked about how he feels it’s his job to keep the 2nd-year QB loose. Trubisky has talked more than once this season about his battles with early-game adrenaline, and what gets the blood pumping more than the first home playoff game of your career in front of 60,000 people?

“I just tell him to have fun because you can get caught up, especially as a quarterback,” he said. “What people are saying you know, what's going on in the offense, bringing the whole team together, you know what people think about you, you can get easily, easily get caught up.”

“Especially as a young guy and I'm not saying he does but it's something that you easily can do. So I feel like my role to him is just to remind him to have fun.” 

In an offense that’s targeted Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Tarik Cohen more often than Burton, it’s easy to overlook the fact the tight end’s having the best season of his career. He set career-high marks in targets (76), receptions (54), yards (569), touchdowns (6), and yards per game (35.6). 

“[In Philadelphia] His volume of plays was like 25 percent play-time, 30 percent, 33, somewhere around there,” Matt Nagy said. “Now he’s up in I want to say the 80s, 85, and that’s a lot. Everything that he’s done, that’s new to him. So considering that and taking into what he’s doing and the leader that he is with these guys and the calmness that he gives the players in the room, he does everything the right way.” 

“He’s one of the smartest guys in the offense. He always knows where to be, how to run a route,” Tarik Cohen added. 

On Wednesday, Burton noted the (actually uncanny) amount of similarities between the 2017 Eagles and the 2018 Bears.  Both teams, he noted, rely on a strong, opportunistic defense coupled with a well-schemed and efficient offense. There are the trick plays and the well-documented parallels between head coaches, too. Burton wasn’t the go-to option for either team, but one of the similarities he chose not to mention was the profound impact he’s had on both. 

Even so, it’s been a quietly strong season for one of the Bears’ quiet leaders. When asked about his impact on the team, Matt Nagy was crystal clear: “He’s exceeded my expectations.”

With Drew Brees officially returning to the Saints, all eyes are on Teddy Bridgewater

With Drew Brees officially returning to the Saints, all eyes are on Teddy Bridgewater

The quarterback market leading up to the 2020 season keeps getting more interesting. 41-year-old Drew Brees had officially announced that he will live to play another season in the NFL, posting on Instagram that he is excited to “make another run at it!”

With Brees returning to the Saints, all eyes are now on where free-agent Teddy Bridgewater will land.  The Saints currently have two backup QBs, restricted free-agent Taysom Hill and unrestricted free-agent Bridgewater. Head coach Sean Payton has made no secret that the team cannot afford to keep both on the roster. The writing on the wall says Bridgewater will be the one to find a new home, with fans and analysts alike speculating where he will end up.

It was reported earlier this week that Bridgewater will command a starter-caliber salary in free agency. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter while Brees was injured last season, completing around 68% of his passes, and earning above-average rankings in adjusted yards per attempt (15th), QB Rating (11th), TD Rate (13th) and completion rate (6th) among 38 QBs to start at least five games in 2019.

While this makes Bridgewater a very attractive candidate for Ryan Pace, the price tag of approximately $30 million per year may not be doable with the Bears current salary cap situation. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Is Bears TE Trey Burton on the chopping block?

Is Bears TE Trey Burton on the chopping block?

Addition by subtraction. Sometimes, that's the only way to get better. And in the case of the Chicago Bears' underachieving tight end group, general manager Ryan Pace may have no choice but to move on from 2018 free-agent signing, Trey Burton, this offseason.

According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, Burton could be facing the chopping block over the next couple of months.

Chicago has a tight cap situation, and Burton’s coming off a rough year that ended on IR. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bears conduct a complete overhaul at his position.

If it wasn't for Burton's prohibitive contract terms, a move like this would be a near-certainty. However, Chicago would be on the hook for $7.5 million if they decide to move on from the oft-injured pass-catcher as opposed to $8.5 million if he's on the roster this season. Despite his underwhelming production, the extra $1 million to keep him around for the chance that he has that kind of year Pace assumed he'd produce in Matt Nagy's offense is probably worth it.

Besides, who else can the Bears realistically turn to at tight end right now?

There are some appealing options in free agency headlined by Falcons emerging star Austin Hooper, but he'll cost even more than the four-year, $32 million contract Burton signed two offseasons ago. The 2020 NFL Draft will offer a cluster of good-looking prospects who Chicago can choose from in the second round, which seems more likely considering the cost control over the next four seasons at a position Pace has already overspent on twice in his tenure as GM (Dion Sims nightmares are very real).

Burton appeared in just eight games last seasons (five starts) and finished the year with 14 catches for 84 yards and zero touchdowns.

If there isn't a massive uptick in production in 2020, it'll be his last as a Bear. His dead-cap figure drops to just $1.75 million if Chicago cuts ties with him in the 2021 offseason. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.