The Chicago Bears have begun thinning out their roster, and they have just released veteran tight end Ben Braunecker, who has been with the team since 2016. Braunecker started 11 games for the Bears last season, and was one of nine tight ends in a crowded tight ends room. He caught six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown last year. After his release, the Bears now have eight tight ends on the roster.
Veterans Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris, second-round draft pick Cole Kmet, former second-round pick Adam Shaheen, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Eric Saubert and the undrafted Darion Clark are now the remaining tight ends.
Several analysts were surprised by Braunecker’s release, as he knows the offense well, and has been a solid presence on special teams. Still, the move saved the Bears around $1 million in cap space, so it wasn’t difficult to understand.
Could Braunecker’s Release Mean More of J.P. Holtz or Jesper Horstead?
Holtz came to Chicago Week 2 of last season after staring the season with Washington. He wound up catching seven passes for 91 yards, which, considering the lackluster production that came from the Bears’ tight ends last year, wasn’t bad team-wise.
Horstead, who signed with the Bears as an undrafted rookie last season, played in six games for Chicago last year, starting one. He caught eight passes for 87 yards and a score, but Holtz could have the edge, as he played in 14 games and started seven. It could also very well come down to which of the two can be the more effective contributor on special teams, though. Braunecker was seventh on the team in special teams snaps last year, so someone will have to fill his role in that capacity.
With the Bears having such a stocked roster (they were carrying 90 players and will have to whittle that number down to 80), cuts were inevitable and expected, but Braunecker was thought to have a better chance than, say, Saubert, Horstead or Holtz.
Bears Cut Braunecker a Week After His Engagement Was Announced
The news comes at an inopportune time for Braunecker, who recently announced his engagement to Sydney Golic, the daughter of former NFL player and current analyst Mike Golic.
His release may be a slight blow after the recent good news in his personal life, but the odds of Braunecker landing on another team’s roster are good; the Harvard grad is smart and hard-working, and his four years of experience with the Bears won’t hurt. Chicago likely released him to save money, and the addition of rookie Kmet had to play a factor, as well.
It has become a running joke in the league to comment on the über-crowded tight ends room in Chicago, but the room is getting less and less crowded by the minute.