In the last three offseasons, the Bears have traded Martellus Bennett and Brandon Marshall and let Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery leave via free agency. They still need to stockpile at the skill positions in free agency and the draft, and they added two pass catchers Thursday to start the 2017 league year.
After getting their quarterback, Mike Glennon, the Bears signed tight end Dion Sims and wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
The Bears swung and missed a couple times last year in attempts to bring in a veteran tight end, but they snagged Sims from their former offensive coordinator.
Per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Sims' three-year contract is worth $18 million with $10 million guaranteed. The 6-4, 271-pounder had 26 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns playing for Adam Gase last season. Per reports, Miami hoped to re-sign Sims.
Last year, the Bears tried to sign Saints tight end Josh Hill. In 2015, they targeted Jermaine Gresham. The No. 2 tight end last year to Zach Miller wound up being Logan Paulsen, a signing just before the regular season. Paulsen signed with the 49ers Thursday.
"Dion is that Y tight end, more of that in-line tight end," said Ryan Pace. "But he’s just a well-rounded player. he’s very solid in a lot of areas. Obviously Adam’s running a similar offense down there to what we’re running here, so there won’t be much of a transition or learning curve for that. we’re happy we got him. We’ve liked him for a long time. He fits the culture, too, of what we want to do here. He’s just a very well-rounded player."
Sims would join Miller as the team’s top two tight ends. Known more for his blocking than receiving, Sims would complement Miller well while also providing the offense a red-zone, pass-catching option. The Bears also re-signed Daniel Brown and have Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt at the position, not to mention this is one of the deepest tight end drafts in years.
"“I just felt like I was wanted here," Sims said. "I feel like it was a great opportunity, a fresh start. Closer to home and the guys are motivated to get things turned around here and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Wheaton, who signed a two-year deal, comes over from the Steelers where he played in only three games in 2016 because of shoulder injuries, and he had surgery on the shoulder in December. In 2015, Wheaton had 44 catches for 749 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 17.0 yards per catch.
"I see myself as a deep threat that can make plays down the field," he said. "You can label it how you want to label it, but I’m here to make plays. I want to score touchdowns. I want to win games."
The Bears are now suddenly thin at wide receiver after losing Jeffery, and they’re expected to release Eddie Royal. Wheaton, a third-round pick in 2013, can play the slot at 5-11, 189 pounds. He was also a kickoff returner in 2014-15.
"I like how they’re building it," Wheaton said about why he wanted to join the Bears. "They’re building it from the ground up with guys that just got in, with the coaching staff, with a lot of the coaching staff just getting here, with the quarterback coming over, a guy that I played with in the Senior Bowl. And [Glennon] was a hell of a leader. That’s one thing I do remember about him. So I’m excited to get started with him and see what we can do."