So, what does that mean for returning starter Zach Miller?
According to Michael Lombardi and The Ringer’s NFL podcast, Miller could be on the trading block. Lombardi reports that the Bears told teams at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis they would be willing to trade Miller if the team selected a tight end in the NFL Draft. And that’s exactly what they did by picking Shaheen after moving back in the second round.
Of course, he isn’t the only investment the Bears made at the position. GM Ryan Pace handed $6 million in guarantees to Dion Sims, brought back Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, and MyCole Pruitt from the 2016 squad, and signed former Ball State basketball star Franko House after the draft.
That’s a lot of competition for one spot, but Miller, 32, is still the best of that group. He played in only 10 games last year, but was productive in that time, finishing with 47 catches for 486 yards and four touchdown receptions. He also finished third on the team in targets, catches, and receiving yards. Miller played only 511 snaps, but was Pro Football Focus’ eighth best tight end in 2016, so if the Bears moved him, they would also be moving out a significant member of their offensive contributions from a year ago. And if that’s how it unfolded, it would mean two of the top three pass catchers from the 2016 team would no longer be a part of the 2017 squad.
Clearly Miller could be useful for a Bears passing attack with a new starting quarterback (free agent Mike Glennon) and his heir apparent (Mitch Trubisky) waiting in the wings. Miller’s experience also could be helpful to an inexperienced group of youthful tight ends.
Of course, all of those are reasons why he could be of interest to a number of other teams as well.
As it stands, Miller is in the final year of his deal. According to Over The Cap, he has $1.5 million in base guarantees for 2017 and a $1 million roster bonus. If the Bears were to send Miller packing via trade, the team would be responsible for $500,000 in dead money. Pace was successful in unloading a tight end in the final year of his deal in 2016 when he sent Martellus Bennett to the New England Patriots for a draft pick. And by the looks of things, the Bears’ general manager could be in the market to do so once again.