Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses the Bears negotiation with tight end Zack Miller:
“Miller, who had a breakout second half of the season for the Chicago Bears, is asking for $5 million per year in a new contract, sources with knowledge of the situation told the Tribune. Unless that target figure drops in negotiations, it’s difficult to imagine a deal getting done before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March.”
“The Bears have decisions to make at the tight end position. Martellus Bennett, who will be 29 next month, has one year remaining on a four-year contract that averages $5.1 million per season, pretty much the range Miller is seeking.”
“Just because Miller is seeking more than the Bears want to pay doesn’t mean a deal can’t be accomplished. Sometimes it helps the team for a player to venture into free agency to find out what his true market is. Of course, a lot of times that path leads to the player heading elsewhere. It’s worth wondering if [former bears offensive coordinator Adam] Gase, now the coach of the Miami Dolphins, will have interest. Miami got limited production from Jordan Cameron at the position last season.”
This is a fairly important issue for the Bears. Right now they have two talented tight ends and it’s one of the few positions where they don’t have a need. But if they cut Bennett, they have to keep Miller. Or, more to the point in this case, if they lose Miller, they need to keep Bennett. Anything else and you are going the wrong direction as a developing team, creating a need that has to be filled in the draft rather than filling the ones you have.
This decision isn’t a slam dunk. Miller has been a good soldier, the type of guy you want to be around a young, developing team. But a multiyear contract for significant money is tough to give to a 31 year old player with Miller’s injury history.
On the other hand, Bennett has been a headache for the last two years. He’s immature and he doesn’t appear to be on board with the current coaching staff or his situation with the Bears. But despite his down year in 2015, his talent is undeniable. If the Bennett situation is at all salvageable, you have to step back and objectively wonder if the Bears are better off sticking with him at his current salary with the idea that you can bring him around and make a deal next year. Indeed, it’s possible that a contract extension for him this off-season instead of a contract for Miller will make Bennett happy and solve many of his problems with the Bears.
In any case, the Bears are between a rock and a hard place at the tight end position. Neither option is ideal. But the only thing worse than picking one is to not pick one.