2022 Bears report card: Tight end: Kmet started slow but finished hot
Bears tight end Cole Kmet had a slow start to the 2022 season, but so did the entire Bears passing game. He wound up finishing as the team's leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Following the slow start (he didn't catch a pass until Week 3), the Lake Barrington native proved to be one of the more reliable players on offense. He was clearly the best tight end on the roster. He was on the field for 93.9% of offensive snaps.
He finished the season with 50 catches for 544 yards and seven touchdowns. Kmet will continue to be the focal point of the tight end position, but the Bears could benefit from adding a reliable second option too.
Here's a look back at what went well and what didn't for the Bears at the tight end position in 2022.
The biggest knock, and really a rather baffling one, on Kmet in 2021 was his lack of touchdowns. He caught 60 passes but not a single touchdown for Matt Nagy's 2021 Bears. Few in the NFL had worse touchdown luck than Kmet.
Given his volume of usage within the offense, Kmet was bound to find the end zone this season. And he did, with seven touchdowns. At one point, he caught five touchdowns in the span of three games.
Kmet averaged 10.9 yards per catch over the course of the season and was also solid as a blocking tight end. He and quarterback Justin Fields had great chemistry once the offense found a rhythm in October. Kmet remained incredibly durable, as well. He has not missed a game due to injury during his three-year pro career.
The slow start for Kmet wasn't ideal. A second option in the passing game never really emerged for the tight end position. Ryan Griffin caught four passes for 26 yards and Trevon Wesco, who was primarily a blocker, caught two passes for 26 yards.
NFL offenses don't necessarily need two quality pass-catching tight ends. In fact, the best NFL offenses tend to have one really talented pass-catching tight end (look no further than the Super Bowl matchup). But six total receptions for tight ends not named Kmet is simply not acceptable.
1. Fields rolled out to his right in the third quarter against the Lions in mid-November at Soldier Field. At that point in the season, Fields' running abilities were so well documented that even the simple act of rolling out drew defenders toward him like a gravitational pull -- leaving a window for a throw to Kmet.
Kmet caught a bullet of a pass from Fields. He reached both arms at length to bring down a touchdown grab. It went down as a 6-yard touchdown in the stat book, but it was not an easy play. Kmet caught another touchdown in the game, a 50-yard bomb from Fields, for his fifth touchdown in three weeks.
2. Kmet made one of the best catches by a Bear all season on Nov. 20 against the Atlanta Falcons, reaching up and snagging one-handed grab as he ran up the seam. Not many tight ends can make the catch that he made on a line-drive pass from Fields.
Kmet is under contract for one more season. Practice squad tight ends Chase Allen and Jake Tonges signed futures contracts, so they should remain with the team. Griffin and Wesco are free agents.
Kmet had a good season, but could be even more involved if the passing game improves. There are times when he goes quiet. Developing additional tight end talent is a necessity.
Kmet's not going anywhere. In fact, heading into the last year of his rookie contract he has probably earned an extension. The question will be whether that comes before, during or after the season. His production during his first three season was quite similar to the likes of Philadelphia's Dallas Goedert and Cleveland's David Njoku, and they both inked four-year contracts worth more than $50 million with about $30 million guaranteed.
The Bears need to keep looking for second options at tight end. Allen is a developmental player who could emerge next year as a contributor. Tonges can play the fullback spot, which is valuable. Poles could look for a cheap free agent option as well.