Earlier this offseason, the Chicago Bears were in search of a play-making tight end who could catch passes from Mitch Trubisky, so they made Trey Burton a priority in free agency and eventually signed him to a four-year/$32M deal on March 13th.
We were pretty happy about the deal at the time …
Burton seemed to be on the cusp of taking on an expanded role in an offense, and at age 26, is young enough to be part of the blossoming offensive core in Chicago …. Even with with second-year tight end Adam Shaheen in the fold, the Bears were in a position to add a versatile tight end with upside. And since Matt Nagy’s offensive concepts are expected to be similar to … Doug Pederson’s [offensive concepts] in Philadelphia, adding Burton makes perfect sense.
… and we still are.
But things could’ve gone quite differently, had a certain NFC North rival decided to push the envelope.
NFL insider Adam Caplan recently revealed that the Minnesota Vikings tried to make a play for Burton in free agency, some time before the Bears landed their new tight end. In fact, Burton, himself, told the NFL Network that the Vikings, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams had all reached out to him early in the free agent process. And sure enough, each of those teams could use a player possessing Burton’s skill set at that position.
Minnesota, in particular, could have had an inside track on Burton because of his familiarity with John DeFilippo, the former Eagles QBs Coach who has since moved on to replace Pat Shurmur as the Vikings’ OC. But he still chose the Bears.
Sure, GM Ryan Pace paid a pretty penny (well, a lot of pretty pennies, considering the size of Burton’s deal), but it’s worth pointing out that they clearly faced some stiff competition to do so. And in the end, beating out not one, but two NFC North rivals for a priority free agent feels pretty sweet, even if it ultimately cost a lot (Michael: the excess cap space the Bears had at the time (and still have, to a degree) doesn’t hurt either).
Moreover, Burton would have been a nice fit in Minnesota, especially with wide receiver Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen commanding a ton of attention from defenses on the outside, as well as the return of running back Dalvin Cook. Minnesota (and Philadelphia, for that matter) did wonderful things in creating mismatches while utilizing two tight end sets (something the Bears hope to do with Burton and Adam Shaheen in 2018), but, now, they won’t have Burton to throw into the mix.
As Caplan points out, Minnesota’s inability to land Burton could lead the Vikings to select a “move” tight end in the draft. And because they draft at the tail end of the first round, the Vikings could find some value at the position, whether it’s South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, or South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert.