Bears should pass on Kellen Winslow

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers informed tight end Kellen Winslow he's not in the team's future plans, meaning he'll likely get cut soon. The Bears would be wise to steer clear of the veteran.

Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. said this morning on "The Opening Drive" on Sirius XM NFL Radio that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to trade him.

"[I] got the call on Saturday [from the Buccaneers] that they're looking for somebody else," Winslow said. "[Coach Greg Schiano was] kind of upset that I wasn't there working out with the team in the offseason and then the first week of OTAS. But look, I've been there the last three years, and I've had a successful career so far. You just don't get rid of one of your best players because of that. He said he'd help me out with the trade. It's kind of shocking, but that's what it is."

The market for an eight-year veteran with chronic knee problems is very slim. Considering the Bears were only able to get a third-round pick for Greg Olsen, a younger yet equally adept pass-catching tight end, it's unlikely the Bucs will be able to find any takers.


TE Kellen Davis
Kelley L. Cox/US Presswire

This is especially so when you consider Winslow's current contract – $3.3 million, $4.5 million and $5.5 million over the next three seasons. Most likely, Tampa Bay will end up cutting him.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Bears were working on a trade for Winslow earlier this offseason, yet chose to make the Brandon Marshall trade instead. So obviously, the team has interest.

Yet, for a number of reasons, the Bears would be better off passing on Winslow.

The club re-signed Kellen Davis this offseason and drafted Evan Rodriguez in the fourth round of this year's draft. We discussed yesterday the potential of each player within new offensive coordinator Mike Tice's system.

Davis has been underutilized since the Bears drafted him in 2008. For his career, he has just 28 receptions for 300 yards. In comparison, Winslow has averaged 73 catches for 792 yards and four touchdowns the last three years with the Bucs.

Yet Davis has never seen anywhere near the looks that Winslow does on a yearly basis. Last season, Davis was targeted a measly 31 times – less than two per game. In comparison, the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, widely considered the top tight end in the game, was targeted 121 times in 2011. Extrapolate Davis' numbers out to 121 targets and here is roughly what he would have accomplished last year: 72 catches for 836 yards, to go along with 20 TDs and 20 broken tackles, both of which would have led the league.

Since the end of last season – and the subsequent firing of Mike Martz, who was notorious for ignoring his tight ends in the passing game – the Bears have expressed publicly their desire to get Davis more touches.

"We have an excellent tight end," coach Lovie Smith said in his post-season press conference. "Kellen Davis can do anything the good tight ends in this league can do. As a catcher if we focus in on him, we can make him more of a guy that people are talking about just based on throwing him the ball more. So I think we have an excellent tight end with good speed, size. I think we had a combination of as good a tight end, the makings of, as anyone around in Kellen."

According to Smith, Davis (6-7, 270) can be an elite tight end if the team would just pass the ball to him more.

In Rodriguez, the club has a pure "F" tight end, a position of great value in Tice's offense.

"We're happy to have a true, different type of tight end, or an F-tight end [in Rodriguez]," Tice said at rookie minicamp. "That's going to be a good tool for us in the offense."

Considering the potential of both players, it would appear the club is set at the tight end position.


TE Kellen Winslow
Kim Klement/US Presswire

Yet no one can deny what Winslow has been able to accomplish during his career. As a pure pass catcher, there are few better tight ends in the league. Yet he has a lot of mileage on his body, including multiple knee surgeries. The past few seasons, he's missed out on the majority of practices to rest his knees, showing up only on game days.

He's been productive despite his knee issues but it's only a matter of time before his body finally breaks down fully. So why stunt the growth of a younger tight end with a much healthier body, just to kick the tires on a player whose career is winding down?

If the Bears sign Winslow, Davis again becomes second fiddle in the offense, and we'll never be able to find out just how good he can be. It will also push Rodriguez down the depth chart, limiting his playing time and development.

There's also Winslow's price tag to consider. It's unlikely he'll be willing to accept too much less than the $3.3 million he's scheduled to make in Tampa Bay this year. Reportedly, the Bears are currently $3.81 million under the 2012 salary cap. Signing Winslow would eat up the majority of that cap space.

He's an experienced player with a history of productivity, yet signing Winslow flies in the face of everything the Bears have talked about in regard to the tight end position going forward.

Also notable is that Davis and Winslow have the same agent, Drew Rosenhaus. It's unlikely he'll rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak.

If the Bears truly believe that Davis and Rodriguez can be the team's tight ends of the future, then they should say "no thanks" to Winslow.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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