Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet had a strong season in 2022. He set a career-high in touchdown receptions with seven, but he failed to reach the 600-yard receiving mark for the second time in three seasons as a pro. He finished last year with 544 yards despite starting all 17 games.
To be fair to Kmet, the entire Bears’ passing game wasn’t productive. It was historically bad early in the 2022 season. In fact, Kmet led Chicago in every major receiving category: targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
Kmet is one of three critical Bears starters eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney are the other two. But if GM Ryan Poles’ recent decisions are any indication, they may all face a prove-it year in 2023.
The Bears drafted Kyler Gordon in the second round of the 2022 draft; perhaps the team views him as their future CB1. Chicago traded for DJ Moore and Chase Claypool in a five-month span. Mooney has to prove he’s more valuable than at least one of them to earn his money. And then there’s Kmet, who suddenly finds himself in a battle for targets with former Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan, who the Chicago Bears signed to a one-year deal in free agency.
Is Cole Kmet a better blocker than receiver?
The Bears’ decision to target Tonyan in free agency indicates Poles and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy want more juice out of their tight ends. Tonyan scored 11 touchdowns during his breakout 2020 campaign, flashing the kind of up-the-seam playmaking ability that, to date, Kmet has failed to.
According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, Kmet could be used more as a blocking tight end in 2023, while Tonyan gets more looks in the passing game.
“Tonyan, who has a career a 77.8% catch rate and averages 10.5 yards per reception, has the Bears eager about his ability to stretch the field,” Cronin said. “I’m hearing that Chicago coaches envision fellow tight end Cole Kmet playing more of the “Y” position, where he’ll be counted on as a blocker. Kmet is eligible for an extension this offseason. Keep an eye on how this affects what the Bears opt to do with a potential second contract.”
Cole Kmet scored the highest grades of his career as a run and pass blocker from Pro Football Focus in 2022. He still figures to be used as a key weapon in the red zone, but how he shares time in the passing game with Robert Tonyan will be an interesting development in 2023.