Zach Miller will be joined by a pair of key offseason acquisitions in veteran free-agent Dion Sims and second-round draft pick Adam Shaheen.
Sims arrives after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Dolphins. Selected by Miami in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of Michigan State, he has appeared in 56 games with 22 starts, catching 74 passes for 699 yards and eight touchdowns.
Last season Sims played in 14 games with 11 starts, setting career highs with 26 receptions and four touchdowns while compiling 256 yards. The Bears see the 6-4, 271-pounder as an every-down player who can contribute as a receiver and blocker.
Shaheen was one of the most intriguing players in the draft. The 6-6, 277-pounder looks like a man among boys in his highlight tape at Ashland University, where he set a Division II record last year for TD receptions for a tight end with 16 while catching 52 passes for 867 yards. In 2015, he had 70 receptions for 803 yards and 10 TDs.
Shaheen was the tallest and heaviest tight end at the NFL Combine. But he only weighed 195 pounds when he graduated from high school and spent his freshman year of college playing basketball at Division II Pittsburgh-Johnstown. After his freshman year, he decided to transfer to Ashland University to play football.
Shaheen has been described as a pass-catching tight end in a blocking tight end’s body. But he wants to show the Bears that he can excel in both aspects of the game.
“I was asked a lot more in college to catch the ball and I was very successful at that,” Shaheen said after being drafted by the Bears. “But I also did a lot of blocking. We ran a lot of power and off-tackle stuff. So I was in there blocking as well. That’s what I love to do as well. Right now I think the tape will show that I have pretty good hands. But I want to be a complete guy that’s going to do it all.”
Miller returns after missing the final six games last season with a broken foot he sustained in a Week 11 loss to the Giants. At the time of the injury, Miller led the Bears with 47 receptions for a career-high 486 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. The converted college quarterback had three catches for 61 yards and one TD in the first half against the Giants before getting hurt.
Miller emerged with the Bears in 2015 after missing the previous three full seasons, catching 34 passes for 439 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns in 15 games.
Other tight ends who will be competing for roster spots in training camp and the preseason include Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt and Ben Braunecker.
The Bears claimed Brown off waivers from the Ravens last Oct. 24. He made the most of the expanded playing time he received following Miller’s injury, catching 16 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown while appearing in six games with three starts.
After playing receiver at James Madison, Brown was converted to tight end when he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens in 2015. He played eight games with one start in two seasons for Baltimore, catching six passes for 64 yards.
Pruitt caught one pass for six yards in two games with the Bears after being signed off the Vikings practice squad last Dec. 13, while Braunecker had four receptions for 41 yards in 13 games last year as an undrafted rookie from Harvard.