This is the fourth in a series of position-by-position looks at the Bears' personnel entering the 2011 offseason. The series continues with an analysis of Chicago's TE situation.
Overview: Tight ends had functioned mainly as blockers under Mike Martz in prior stops, so there were questions about how Greg Olsen would fit in the system heading into the season. Blocking isn't Olsen's strength and the Bears selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft to contribute as a pass catcher. He was connected to trade rumors throughout the offseason, and reports indicate Chicago was ready to deal him after signing Brandon Manumaleuna — who was a more natural fit in the Martz system because of his blocking ability.
No deal was made to ship Olsen out, however. He finished with 41 catches for 404 yards, which were the lowest numbers he had in those categories since his rookie year. As he heads into the final year of his contract with Chicago, Olsen is coming off a season in which he had one catch or less in seven games.
While Olsen found ways to put a positive spin on his experience in 2010, playing in Martz's offense has altered the course of his career, and not necessarily for the better. The question is, will Martz find ways to cater to Olsen's strengths more this coming season? Martz has pointed out that he hasn't coached many tight ends with Olsen's skill set. With another full offseason together, it's possible that Martz will have a better feel for how to utilize him when training camp begins.
Here's a breakdown of each of the tight ends on the roster:
Desmond Clark: Martz had little use for Clark, who was a healthy scratch from 11 regular-season games. While Clark, a 12-year veteran, didn't complain or gripe to the media about being relegated to the sideline, there's little doubt he will be looking for a new team when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
Kellen Davis: The 25-year-old has great size at 6-7, 262 pounds. He contributes on special teams and in the three-TE package, and has potential as a receiver. Davis made a 39-yard TD catch in the Bears' playoff win over the Seahawks. His role could expand.
Brandon Manumaleuna: A 295-pound blocking specialist, Manumaleuna serves as an extra offensive tackle for the Bears. He signed a five-year deal that included $6.1 million guaranteed last March. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that Manumaleuna soon would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee for the second consecutive offseason, but he's expected to be ready for training camp if camp starts on time.
Greg Olsen: Olsen has a rare combination of size and speed, but he didn't get to show it as much as he would have liked in 2010. His role changed significantly under Martz, who shifted Olsen to different spots on the field and asked him to block more. His numbers dipped, and the Bears have said part of the reason for Olsen's lack of production was because defenses focused on taking him away. He's a weapon that Martz is still learning how to use best.
Bottom line: Clark is expected to depart, and the Bears will lose a dependable veteran and a leader in the locker room when he leaves. The other tight ends should be back, and one of Martz's priorities might be figuring out how to give Olsen more opportunities to make plays.
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