Chicago Bears: Kellen Davis

2013 FA review: TE Martellus Bennett

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Money: Signed a four-year contract worth $20.4 million with $9.215 million in guarantees ($4.5 million signing bonus). Bennett will earn a total of $4.9 million in 2014 and is scheduled to count $6.025 million against the Bears’ salary cap in the second year of his deal.

Stats: Bennett finished the season with career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759) and tied his all-time best mark with five touchdown catches. Bennett’s 65 grabs ranked fourth on the Bears and No. 8 in the NFL amongst tight ends. His 759 receiving yards were the third highest total on the team and ninth amongst tight ends in the league.

Bennett
2013 role: Bennett spent the entire year as the unquestioned No. 1 tight end on the Bears’ roster. He technically started 15 games, but Bennett played an extremely high number of snaps every single week. The tight end proved to be the Bears' third or fourth option on offense, sharing touches with receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and tailback Matt Forte. Bennett lived up to almost all of the expectations placed upon him after the Bears moved so quickly to sign him last offseason.

The good: Compared to the Bears’ 2012 starting tight end, Kellen Davis, Bennett looked like Kellen Winslow Sr. in his prime. Bennett immediately turned tight end from a position of severe weakness to a position of strength. The six-year veteran began the year with a bang when he hauled in three touchdown passes over the first two games, including the game-winner versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2. He displayed a willingness to fight for additional yards after receptions, even if he occasionally landed on his head as a result of the going to extra mile. Bennett’s quirky and eclectic personality played well with the media. He was never a distraction and seemed to be extremely happy and comfortable in his new surroundings.

The bad: Bennett never missed a game or complained about injuries, but he did fight through a variety of physical ailments that possibly curtailed his effectiveness to a small degree. There were weeks in the season when Bennett failed to factor much into the offense. He had five games where he caught two or fewer passes, but the Bears also had a variety of weapons for the quarterback to choose from.

2014 outlook: Bennett figures to pick up where he left off in 2013. Expect the tight end to again be one of the top four options on offense from week to week. Bennett would benefit from a stronger No. 2 tight end behind him on the depth chart. Perhaps that is an area the Bears address in the draft or in free agency. At 26 years old, Bennett, who turns 27 in March, should be entering the most productive phase of his NFL career.

Bears eager to find indentity on offense

September, 5, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Not even the Chicago Bears’ players themselves are entirely sure what to expect on Sunday when their revamped offense is unveiled for the first time in a regular season game.

Bennett
“No expectations, really,” Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said. “We’re just going out there trying to fly around and play ball. I think we have a high ceiling. But there are a lot of places with high ceilings. Right now, we’re just an offense trying to figure out what we’re going to be. So this will be our first chance to go against somebody else when it really counts and really matters. I don’t think we have our identity yet. I think we’re going to figure out our identity during this journey. So we’ll figure out if we’re a run-first team, a pass-first team. We have no clue.”

One of the Bears’ most important offseason acquisitions, Bennett was kept under wraps in the preseason after signing a four-year, $20.4 million deal that contains $9.215 million in guarantees. Bennett caught just one pass for 16 yards in three preseason games as the majority of quarterback Jay Cutler's passes went in the directions of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

It’s silly to overreact to anything, good or bad, in the preseason, but the Bears didn’t invest that kind of money at the tight end for Bennett to be a spectator when the games count -- especially not after the club had such poor results at the position last season from ex-starter Kellen Davis, who managed a mere 19 receptions for 229 yards.

How it unfolds for Bennett against a talented Cincinnati Bengals’ defense remains a question mark, but Cutler should have no trouble finding the starting tight end in the huddle or on the sideline.

“I’m always there to reassure Jay and make sure he’s calling the right play,” Bennett said. “So I’m like his backup guy. Like, ‘I don’t think that’s to the right.’ Or the ball’s on the left hash. We’ve got to flip the play. So I’m there.

"I’m like Jiminy Cricket in his ear, making sure the tight ends are always the quarterback’s best friend. So I stay in all of the quarterback meetings and the offensive line meetings. So I pretty much know what everyone is doing. So I try to help people out as much as possible. But sometimes there are so many calls, I tell a receiver, you got this, I got this. Like I say, I over communicate in the huddle. So I probably talk the most.”
The Cleveland Browns weren't expected to re-sign Ben Watson, but many thought the team would address tight end early in free agency. It became obvious that the position wasn't a priority as the team passed on Brandon Myers and Dustin Keller. There were even reports of the Browns getting close to signing Fred Davis, but nothing has materialized.

The Browns settled on Kellen Davis, a free agent from the Chicago Bears. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland signed Davis to a one-year deal.

The addition of a tight end like Davis doesn't preclude the Browns from taking a tight end in the draft or going with Jordan Cameron as the starter. Davis, a two-year starter for the Bears, is considered an underachiever. He has size, athleticism and strength but it hasn't translated on the field. Davis is a solid run-blocker who was a productive red zone target in 2011. Then, in 2012, he caught 19 passes and two touchdowns.

By the Browns signing Kellen Davis and not Fred Davis, the best pass-catching tight end on the roster is Cameron. A fourth-round pick in 2011, Cameron has 26 receptions in limited playing time over the past two seasons.

In other news, the Browns also signed a Falcons free-agent cornerback, but not the one everyone was expecting. While Brent Grimes remains unsigned, Cleveland picked up Chris Owens, who struggled at times as a backup for Atlanta. Owens lost his nickelback job last season and served as the Falcons' dime back (fourth corner). Over his four-year career, he's made 11 starts and has three interceptions.
The dust began settling Wednesday for the Chicago Bears following their triumphant dive into free agency. After signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod (five years, $39.5 million) and tight end Martellus Bennett (four years, $20 million), the Bears cut ties with three veterans and watched a fourth begin taking visits elsewhere.

Tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, along with defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, will all be set free. Their departures will carve out a modest salary-cap savings, a little over $5 million, but it's still fair to ask how much more the Bears can do this offseason given their financial constraints.

"We are up against the cap," general manager Phil Emery told reporters. "There isn't a lot of wiggle room."

Whether it was genuine or for the consumption of agents, Emery painted a limited picture of the Bears' future action.

Emery: "Are we going to be able to go out and sign in the UFA market a starting guard? No."

As a result, linebacker Nick Roach planned a visit to the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's future remains in limbo.

"We've approached him about coming back," Emery said. "As far as working it out, that's an ongoing process."

As with most things, free agency is a give and take. The Bears have taken two of the best players off the market. As a result, they'll have to give in other areas. That's usually how it works.

Bears cut ties with TE Davis

March, 13, 2013
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CHICAGO -- In a move that clears $2.5 million worth of salary cap space, the Chicago Bears have severed ties with tight end Kellen Davis, the team announced.

(Read full post)

Dreaming: Jermichael Finley and the Bears

March, 1, 2013
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Just to keep things spicy around here, I kept this discussion about Jermichael Finley's future decidedly within the NFC North.

Finley, of course, said this week he would "walk" from the Green Bay Packers if he was asked to take a pay cut to stay with the team in 2013. Asked in the video by ESPN's Prim Siripipat where Finley could land if the Packers release him, the first team to come to mind was the Chicago Bears.

General manager Phil Emery has said the team needs more out of its tight ends in the passing game, putting starter Kellen Davis and backup Matt Spaeth on notice. Would the Bears target Finley if he were available? He has had some huge games against the Bears in the past, catching three touchdowns in Week 3 of 2011 and totaling 115 receiving yards in Week 3 of 2010, but both of those games came before the arrival of Emery or coach Marc Trestman.

This discussion will be moot if Finley remains with the Packers, but if he's set loose, he would be an intriguing option. It's something to consider over the coming weeks, if nothing else.

TE use figures to change, will personnel?

February, 15, 2013
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Kellen DavisAP Photo/Rick OsentoskiKellen Davis has just 37 catches over the past two seasons with the Bears.
Seemingly every offseason discussion in recent years hits on the need to add a pass catcher at tight end for the Chicago Bears.

It's uncertain whether the new coaching staff views the position as a need in free agency or the upcoming draft, but what's clear is the plan in 2013 to step into the modern age of tight end play.

"The days of the tight end being a down blocker and a flat runner are really gone," said new Bears tight ends coach Andy Bischoff. "If you have that guy, you better get somebody else eventually because those days are really gone."

That's not to say the tenure of any of the club's tight ends is coming to an end anytime soon, but Bischoff made it abundantly clear their roles will change significantly with the implementation of the new offensive scheme by head coach Marc Trestman. In each of the past two seasons Chicago's tight ends ranked at the bottom of the league in receptions.

Perhaps that's about to change.

(Read full post)

Bears free agency preview: Tight ends

January, 30, 2013
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GiantsRob Carr/Getty ImagesIf the Giants let Martellus Bennett hit the open market he figures to get a lot of attention.
The Chicago Bears need a tight end capable of working the middle of the field who can catch the ball on a regular basis. But it doesn't appear that person is on the team's roster.

It would be viewed by many as an upset if Kellen Davis sees the second year of the contract he signed with the Bears last offseason that calls for a base salary of $2.4 million in 2013. Davis just isn't the dependable threat in the passing game the Bears need at tight end. He had far too many drops last year as he struggled to stay upright whenever he had to turn his body to make a catch or run up field.

[+] EnlargeEvan Rodriguez
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWill Evan Rodriguez emerge as a dependable receiver in his second season?
That needs to be fixed.

Further down the depth chart are accomplished blocker Matt Spaeth, developing pass-catcher Kyle Adams, and 2012 fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez, who spent his rookie year lining up roughly 10-12 snaps per game at the hybrid H-Back position. The Bears' reserves are more than capable to handle their respective roles, but the team has been lacking a front-line tight end since the previous regime decided to trade Greg Olsen to Carolina in the summer of 2011.

In a twist of bad luck, there are a handful of talented tight ends slated to be restricted free agents, led by Dennis Pitta, who had a breakout year for the Baltimore Ravens with 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. Pitta also has two postseason touchdown receptions for the AFC champions.

Acquiring restricted free agents is much trickier because teams have a right to match any offer sheet the player signs, and depending on the tender amount, teams can be due compensation in the form of draft picks if they decide not to match the offer.

The Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade and will no doubt investigate and consider all the available options. If they decide to address the issue in free agency, here is a list of some of the projected unrestricted free agent tight ends.

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Five areas the Bears need to address

January, 21, 2013
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BearsAP Photo/Bill FeigThe offensive line, including Roberto Garza (63) and Chris Spencer (67), struggled to protect Jay Cutler.


With Senior Bowl practices scheduled to get underway this week in Mobile, Ala., let’s take a brief look at certain position groups the Chicago Bears might look to address in the upcoming NFL draft or free agency.

1. Offensive line: Let’s just lump the entire offensive line together since it likely requires a significant amount of work. Here is what we know -- Lance Louis has been at Halas Hall this offseason rehabbing the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last November against the Minnesota Vikings. If the Bears are satisfied that Louis is on track to make a full recovery, it stands to reason the club would either re-sign the versatile offensive lineman to a new deal or tag him. It’s unknown whether or not Louis will be ready to return at the beginning of next season, but even if he is forced to miss a small amount of time, the Bears will be much better off with a healthy Louis at right guard at some point in 2013. At his end of the year press conference Bears general manager Phil Emery spoke highly of veteran Jonathan Scott (scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent), who started five of the last six games at right tackle, and former undrafted rookie James Brown, who got his feet wet in the final three games at left guard. Emery also said 33-year old center Roberto Garza was “solid,” but the Bears need to figure out a long-term solution at the position, although Garza does keep himself in excellent physical shape. It’s clear the Bears need to attempt to upgrade one, if not both, of their offensive tackles, and probably find at least one guard. Granted, that’s a ton of work to one area of the team in a single offseason, but after neglecting to address the line last year on the heels of two bad first-round picks at tackle, the Bears find themselves in a tough situation. New Bears head coach Marc Trestman mentioned several times the need to protect quarterback Jay Cutler, which seems to indicate he too views the offensive line as a weak spot that needs to be fixed.

(Read full post)

TE Davis: Boos 'not easy' but part of game

November, 15, 2012
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis said it was "not easy" to leave the field to a chorus of boos after he dropped a pass and getting injured on the play in the fourth quarter of a 13-6 loss to Houston Texans on Sunday,

[+] EnlargeDanieal Manning
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireDanieal Manning forced a fumble on Kellen Davis' only catch of the game on Sunday.
"It feels great man, you know. It feels awesome," Davis said sarcastically. "Tough ball, hit the ground, get hurt and (have) everybody boo you. It's definitely not fun, and it's not easy. But it's part of this game, and it's something we just have to deal with.

"They are great fans, and I hope not to mess up in the future. But I'm not perfect. So hopefully
they won't boo me."

Davis drew fans' ire after he was targeted five times but caught just one pass for 6 yards. But even that lone reception led to a miscue as Davis fumbled as he tried to turn up field following the catch.

Davis has been targeted 26 times this season but has just 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said after last season that Davis has all the traits of the dominant pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. The Bears re-signed Davis to a two-year deal in free agency.

Stock Watch: Find a way for Forte

November, 13, 2012
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Matt ForteDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireMatt Forte averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against the Texans on Sunday.

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Tim Jennings
1. Tim Jennings, CB: Tacked on two more interceptions, and continues to lead the NFL in interceptions (eight). Despite being targeted 30 times more in coverage than Charles Tillman, Jennings has given up just eight more receptions than his counterpart. According to Pro Football Focus, opponents are actually more successful throwing the ball in Tillman's direction. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 36.7 when throwing Jennings' way in coverage, and a 57.9 rating against Tillman.
Jennings hasn't missed a tackle in four games.

(Read full post)

Five Things We Learned: Bears-Texans

November, 12, 2012
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Here are Five Things We Learned from the Chicago Bears' 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans:

1. Bears are not the best team in the NFL: OK, that question got cleared up Sunday night. But just because the Bears lost to Houston doesn't mean they're about to go into some epic tailspin. Keep it in perspective: As poorly as the Bears played they only lost by seven points. If Robbie Gould makes that difficult 48-yard field goal and Brandon Marshall doesn't drop that long pass in the end zone, the Bears win. This team can still win games even if Jay Cutler is out for a week or two, basically because the defense is so good. Kudos to Houston for staying committed to the run, but it did take Arian Foster 29 carries to reach 102 yards (3.5 average per rush). No doubt the bad weather hurt the Texans' offense, but the Bears deserve some credit for Matt Schaub's 42.9 quarterback rating and two interceptions. One loss does not define a season. At 7-2, the Bears are still in the upper echelon of the NFL. If they get a chance to meet the Texans later in the year, perhaps their starting quarterback will play the entire game. Who knows if that will change the outcome.

(Read full post)

Stock Watch: Urlacher continues rise

November, 6, 2012
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UrlacherBrian Cassella/Getty ImagesBrian Urlacher got in on the Bears' pick-six fun Sunday, returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown.

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TBD
1. Charles Tillman, CB: Fresh off winning NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, Tillman got an early jump on the November award by forcing a career-high four fumbles against the Tennessee Titans. Tillman might even be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors if he can keep up the production. He has already forced seven fumbles this season, and 36 in his career, which are the most in the NFL by a defensive back since 2003, when he came into the league.

(Read full post)

NFC North drop totals and percentages

November, 1, 2012
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I've found over the years that dropped passes tend to generate high levels of angst among readers, regardless of their frequency. I get it. There are few things more frustrating in football than seeing a good-looking play have the proverbial rug pulled out from under it.

I tossed out a few of ESPN Stats and Information's raw numbers Wednesday on Twitter and was quickly deluged with individual questions and requests for more context. So I'll endeavor to pass along all relevant information in this post.

Drops are a subjective statistic, and my experience with ESPN Stats & Information is that an incompletion has to be an obvious, clear drop for it to be recorded as one. As a result, you might see other statistical services hand out more drops. But to me it's all relative, as long as the same standards are applied to each team, we can get a clear perspective on who is dropping lots of passes and who isn't.

As the chart shows, the Green Bay Packers have the most drops in the NFC North (19) as well as the highest drop percentage (6.6). The 19 drops is tied for the NFL lead, but as we discussed on Twitter, percentage is more important because it adjusts for teams who throw more often. It stand to reason that a team like the Packers would have more drops than the Bears, who have thrown 155 fewer targeted passes over the first eight weeks of the season.

For the Packers, receiver Jordy Nelson has been debited with five drops. Tight end Jermichael Finley has four, receiver Randall Cobb has three and receiver Donald Driver has two (on nine targeted passes). No one else has more than one drop, and receiver James Jones -- who has some of the most notorious drops in recent Packers history -- has not been debited with any in 2012.

Below are some other notable drop figures in the NFC North. For reference, the NFL leader in drops based on this standard are Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who have seven drops apiece.

Davis helps raise funds for slain fan's family

October, 11, 2012
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis is turning to current and former teammates to help raise money for the family of William "Christopher" Pettry, the Bears fan slain early Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Read the entire story.

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