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Bears 2024 position preview: Tight end


The following is the fourth of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears boast a talented and experienced group of tight ends led by veteran Cole Kmet, free agent addition Gerald Everett and the ageless Marcedes Lewis.

After two productive seasons in 2021 and '22, Kmet elevated his game to an even higher level last year, establishing career highs with 73 receptions and 719 yards while catching six touchdown passes, one fewer than he had the previous season. In addition, Kmet has improved his catch percentage every year he's been in the league—from 63.6% in 2020 to 64.5% in 2021 to 72.5% in 2022 to 81.1% in 2023.

"I just think it's naturally getting older, seeing more stuff, kind of growing into myself a little bit more," Kmet said last year. "I'm still a young player relative to the NFL."

He is indeed. At 25, the 2020 second-round pick from Notre Dame is the same age as three members of the Bears' 2022 draft class: safety Jaquan Brisker, left tackle Braxton Jones and guard Ja'Tyre Carter.

This season Kmet will be joined by Everett, who signed with the Bears after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Rams (2017-20), Seahawks (2021) and Chargers (2022-23), catching 284 passes for 2,833 yards and 19 TDs in 107 games. Last year he had 51 receptions for 411 yards and three touchdowns.

Everett reunites in Chicago with three assistant coaches, having worked with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron with the Rams and Seahawks, passing game coordinator Thomas Brown with the Rams and receivers coach Chris Beatty with the Chargers.

Lewis, who turned 40 in May, has played 18 NFL seasons with the Jaguars (2006-17), Packers (2018-22) and Bears (2023), the most by a tight end in league history. He has appeared in 268 games—the most in the league among active players—with 225 starts, catching 436 passes for 5,113 yards and 40 touchdowns. The 6-6, 267-pounder is also considered one of the league's best blocking tight ends.

In his first season with the Bears last year, Lewis played in all 17 games with four starts and caught four passes for 29 yards and one TD.

Lewis was selected by the Jaguars with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA. The California native spent his first 12 NFL seasons with Jacksonville, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in 2010 after setting career highs with 58 receptions, 700 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Lewis ranks third all-time among tight ends in career games played, trailing just Jason Witten (271) and Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (270). In last season's Week 16 win over the Cardinals, Lewis surpassed Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the most starts by an active NFL player and also recorded his 40th career TD reception.

Other tight ends who will compete for roster spots this summer are veterans Stephen Carlson and Tommy Sweeney and rookie Brendan Bates.

Carlson is a fourth-year pro who played one snap on special teams for the Bears last season. He entered the NFL in 2019 with the Browns as an undrafted free agent from Princeton and appeared in 25 games with seven starts in his first two seasons, catching six passes for 62 yards and one TD. Carlson spent the entire 2021 season on injured reserve with a torn ACL.

The Bears signed Sweeney in May. Selected by the Bills in the seventh round of the 2019 draft out of Boston College, he played in 24 games with four starts for Buffalo in 2019 and 2021-22, catching 18 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown. Sweeney sat out the 2020 season after developing myocarditis as a result of having COVID-19. He signed with the Giants in 2023 but was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list after collapsing during a training camp practice due to "a medical event."

Bates signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent from Kentucky, where he appeared in 58 games with 25 starts over six seasons and caught 26 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, the same school that produced former Bears receiver Tom Waddle.