The Bears on Wednesday locked up a key member of their offense, signing tight end Cole Kmet to a four-year contract extension through 2027.
"We're extremely excited to be able to keep Cole in Chicago," said general manager Ryan Poles. "We consider him a core part of our group we want to move forward with and he exhibits everything we think a Chicago Bear should be, on and off the field. We think his best football is ahead of him and can't wait to see how he helps our offense this season and the seasons to come."
Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame (43rd overall), the Chicago area native has appeared in 50 games with 43 starts, catching 138 passes for 1,399 yards and nine touchdowns.
"Certainly excited about that," coach Matt Eberflus said, "having that type of guy, that type of tight end, that type of man that represents everything we want to represent here at the Chicago Bears in terms of being smart, being tough, playing with intensity. And certainly he's got a bright future ahead of him here with the Chicago Bears."
Kmet is ecstatic that his NFL journey will continue with his hometown team. He was an avid Bears fan while growing up in Lake Barrington and attending St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. His father, Frank, was a lineman on the Bears practice squad in 1993.
"This whole thing from the beginning has been a dream come true," Kmet said, "getting drafted here first, and being able to get an extension done. Looking forward to it, looking forward to the things that come with it, and many playoff appearances and Super Bowls to come."
After catching 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, Kmet emerged as a key contributor in 2021, registering 60 receptions for 612 yards. Last year the 6-6, 260-pounder led the Bears in all receiving categories with 50 catches, 544 yards and seven TDs. He also excelled as a blocker, helping the Bears top the NFL in rushing.
"He's a pro," Eberflus said. "He's a guy that can be trusted. He's a fantastic teammate with him just leading by example. We talk about modeling the behavior you want to see, talk about his practice habits, how he is in meetings, how he works with other players, how he works with the coaches, how he leads in times of adversity. He does all those things, and I think that's what makes him a good leader."
Kmet described receiving such a lucrative contract extension as "unbelievable."
"It's obviously life-changing stuff, and it's pretty wild to think about," he said. "At the end of the day, it's crazy. I don't even know how else to say it. Honored to be here. Honored that they felt I was a guy worthy of this. Ready to get going and prove these guys right and play beyond what the contract value is, in my opinion. That's what I want to do. And show that they made the right decision."
Kmet, who was entering the final year of his rookie deal, found out that an agreement on an extension had been reached about 20 minutes before the start of practice.
Asked how he felt when he heard the news, Kmet said: "Just relief. [It was] hard to focus on everything going on with stuff like that, getting phone calls all the time about it. It was nice to get to practice and start focusing on the things that matter."
Kmet revealed that contract talks began this summer toward the end of OTAs, continued through the break between the offseason program and training camp and "really picked up the last week."
"The last three days were pretty hectic, not really knowing where it was going to go," he said. "But got a call from my representation 20 minutes before I went out that we were good to go, so it was a good feeling."
With his contract situation resolved, Kmet will now be able to focus solely on honing his skills as he enters his prime at age 24.
"I mean it's been up-and-down just as most NFL careers are, and I'm still early in mine," Kmet said. "I'm still a young guy. I've got a long way to go and I'm excited about that, for sure. When you look back at kind of the stuff I was doing my rookie year, I look like an idiot out there at times, you know? But it's cool to see the progression and kind of where things are going. I've seen the improvement every year and I'm looking to continue to take those steps this coming year and the years beyond."
Entering his fourth NFL season, Kmet brings versatility to the Bears as a multi-dimensional tight end.
"Blocking really wasn't a huge part of my game coming out [of college], but it's had to form that way just based on the offenses I've been in the past three years," Kmet said. "I think that's become a good strength of mine. It's just always continuing to build my all-around game and be whoever I need to be that day. If I need to be on the line and we need to run the ball 40 times a game, I can be that guy. Or if we've got to drop back 40 times to win a game, I can be that dude that is able to split out and do things as well. So just continuing to improve on all those facets of the game."