Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet has no problem admitting that he and Justin Fields are “shooting” to become a quarterback-tight end duo on the levels of Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady as they prepare for the 2023 season.
During a recent interview with Joe Brand at the Kane County Cougars game, Kmet said he believes the Bears offense is primed for a breakout in 2023, having added some “key pieces” in the offseason and being another year wiser in Luke Getsy’s offensive system. He also sang Fields’ praises, calling him an “electric” and “unbelievable” quarterback.
When asked if he believes he and Fields can rise to the greatness of Gronk and Brady, he admitted, “That’s always what we’re shooting for, that’s for sure.”
Kmet had a semi-breakout in 2022 as a red-zone weapon, scoring seven touchdowns after putting up just two over his first two seasons in Chicago. He also finished with the most receptions (50) and receiving yards (544) for the Bears over his 17 games of play. While he still has plenty of work to do to catch Gronkowski, the Bears would benefit greatly if his connection with Fields could take another step forward in 2023.
“He’s just electric, man,” Kmet said of Fields. “For what he can do with his arm and then in the run game, it’s unbelievable. So you’ve always got to be on your toes, stay alive, but he’s an electric player to play with.”
Cole Kmet Also Chasing Contract Extension in 2023
Kmet has more on the line than previous seasons with the Bears heading into 2023. The 2020 second-round pick is entering the final year of his contract, and while he has said negotiations about a potential extension are underway, how he plays in the upcoming year could go a long way toward solidifying his future role with the team beyond 2023.
“Just little talks here and there,” Kmet told NBC Sports Chicago back in March. “They’ve got a lot to get done, obviously with the draft, free agency, all those things. Really wouldn’t expect much to happen, maybe until summer, really until after free agency settles and the draft, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Generally speaking, Kmet got better in every way in 2022. He improved his yards-per-receptions average (10.9) and tied with Juwan Johnson for the third-most touchdowns among tight ends, trailing only George Kittle (11) and Travis Kelce (12). According to Pro Football Focus, Kmet was also more effective as a blocker, earning career-high grades as both a run-blocker (65.1) and a pass-blocker (68.8) while being asked to block more than ever (516 total blocking snaps) in the first year of Getsy’s system.
Establishing more consistency will be paramount to Kmet’s long-term future, though. While he was the team’s leading receiver, he had stretches where his production dried up, including nine games in which he finished with fewer than 30 receiving yards. He also did most of his scoring in a three-game stretch, collecting five of his touchdowns between Weeks 8 and 10 before adding one in each of their final two games.
How Will Robert Tonyan Jr. Fit into Bears’ Offense?
The Bears are counting on Kmet to take another step forward in 2023, but they also aren’t putting all of their eggs in one basket as far as the tight end spot is concerned. Unlike last year, where they began the season with Kmet as the clear starter and Ryan Griffin as his backup, the Bears went out and added another quality pass-catcher in Robert Tonyan Jr. to essentially give themselves a 1A and 1B option at the position.
Tonyan had a breakout season for the Green Bay Packers in 2020 when he caught 52 of his 59 targets for 586 yards and a tied-for-NFL-lead 11 touchdowns, and he might still be their main option at the position if not for the ACL injury in 2021 that derailed him. While Tonyan’s recovery took him right up until the start of the 2022 season, he still managed to pull in more receptions (53) than Kmet over his 17 games of action.
For the time being, Kmet figures to retain his starting role, but the Bears could use the two of them interchangeable once they feel Tonyan has a strong grasp of the playbook. Tonyan has just as much ability to stretch the field as Kmet and he has faced fewer issues with dropped passes throughout his career. Tonyan also has the advantage of familiarity with Getsy, having worked with him in Green Bay where he gained a full understanding of the blocking demands that come with a zone-blocking scheme.