On the surface, the Bears appear to be in pretty good shape at the tight end position heading into next season.
While Greg Olsen didn't quite explode and have a Pro Bowl campaign in 2009, he did establish career highs in catches (60), yards (612) and touchdowns (eight). However, with former starter Desmond Clark soon to be 32 years old and entering the final year of his contract, Chicago could be in the market for another pass-catching option to use in two-tight end sets. Additionally, although third stringer Kellen Davis has proven he can be a quality receiver, he continues to disappoint as a run blocker despite his 6-7, 262-pound frame.
With his production dropping from a career-best 45 receptions in 2006 to 44, 41 and then 19 the last three years, Clark's $475,000 roster bonus and $1 million salary next season may be considered too expensive.
Wisconsin tight end Garrett Graham confirmed Monday to Scout.com that the Bears have shown a good deal of interest in him so far at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Graham was awfully productive for the Badgers this past season, catching 51 passes for 624 yards and seven TDs. The Brick, New Jersey, native was even more active down the stretch, reeling in 21 balls for 282 yards and three scores the final four contests after missing the Michigan matchup Nov. 14. He'll need to bulk up a bit by hitting the weight room hard if he wants to be an effective run blocker at the next level, but he appears ready to contribute in the passing game right away.
The 6-4, 248-pound Graham is currently Scout.com's No. 7 tight end heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.
JC's Take: It would hard to say goodbye to Clark because he is a solid blocker in the running game and also a respected veteran in the locker room.
That being said, if the Bears are committed to building an offense around Jay Cutler, that means spreading the field with three- and four-receiver sets and taking advantage of the favorable matchups he's presented. Olsen is already more of a hybrid player and quite comfortable splitting out wide or lining up in the slot, which means Chicago is always going to need a more traditional tight end so long as the former first-round draft pick is on the roster. It's difficult to say at this juncture if Graham can be that guy, and on the surface he appears to be more Olsen than Clark.
If the underwhelming Davis could ever develop into the short-yardage and goal-line threat this team has missed since John Gilmore left via free agency, then targeting an additional weapon like Graham would make even more sense.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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