Bears select Notre Dame's Cole Kmet in NFL draft, giving team 10 tight ends

The Chicago Bears must believe in the strength-in-numbers theory at tight end.

On Friday, the Bears made yet another attempt to improve their fortunes at tight end by using the 43rd overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft on Notre Dame's Cole Kmet, who became the 10th tight end on Chicago's offseason roster.

The Bears had the league's least productive group of tight ends in 2019. Veteran Trey Burton led Chicago tight ends with only 14 catches, while J.P. Holtz topped all tight ends on the roster with just 91 receiving yards.

Kmet -- the consensus top tight end in the 2020 draft class -- finished his career at Notre Dame with 60 catches for 691 yards and six touchdowns.

"I think my versatility [is my biggest strength] -- just from being able to go from the backfield to in-line to split out wide, that's pretty unique, and I'm an aggressive player," Kmet said during a conference call Friday. "I don't go down on first contact. I like to run through guys and stuff, and I'm going to play fast and physical, and I refuse to go down."

Bears general manager Ryan Pace moved swiftly to address tight end in free agency and signed 33-year-old Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal that included $9 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause. However, Graham is coming off two subpar seasons in Green Bay, with only 38 receptions for 447 yards and three touchdowns during the 2019 regular season. Graham did have seven catches for 108 yards for the Packers in the postseason.

Green Bay released Graham on March 12.

Last week, Chicago officially severed ties with Burton, whom the team signed to a lucrative free-agent deal in 2018 that contained $22 million in guarantees.

Burton played only eight games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending calf injury, and he underwent hip surgery to address a labrum issue in December. He finished the season with 14 receptions for 84 yards and zero touchdowns.

He started all 16 regular-season games during his first year with the Bears, catching 54 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns, but he was a surprise inactive for the wild-card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with a groin injury.

Burton underwent sports hernia surgery prior to the 2019 season. He was slow to recover and experienced a setback in training camp.

The Bears are also at the crossroads with 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen, a former Division II player who has yet to emerge as a threat on offense.

Chicago also added former Cleveland Browns blocking tight end Demetrius Harris, who spent several years with Bears coach Matt Nagy in Kansas City. Harris agreed to a one-year deal with Chicago in February.

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