As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Next up, the Chicago Bears.
Kellen Davis bound to do more than just block
With the possible exception of Jay Cutler, no player on the Chicago Bears' roster figures to benefit more from the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Martz than fifth-year tight end Kellen Davis.
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Davis has dressed for all 64 games of his career, playing primarily on special teams his first two seasons as the third tight end on the depth chart, behind Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Davis moved up to the second spot in 2010, but the position was a non-factor in Martz's offense, so Davis had more starts (three) than targets (two) and receptions (one). When Olsen was traded to the Carolina Panthers, Davis ascended to the top spot for the 2011 season. A 15-game starter, Davis played in more than 70 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps that campaign ... and caught 18 passes for 206 yards and a team-high five touchdowns.
Former NFL tight end Mike Tice replaced Martz as the offensive coordinator this offseason, and Davis' role in the offense is expected to expand. Tice frequently used personnel groupings that featured multiple tight ends when he was coaching the Minnesota Vikings, and they didn't just serve as blockers. Jermaine Wiggins actually led the Vikings in receptions during Tice's final two seasons in Minnesota.
With the addition of Brandon Marshall on the outside, Davis could have more room to operate down the middle of the field. Davis signed a contract with the Bears in March that would be commensurate with an expanded role. He has fewer than 30 career receptions, but the Bears gave Davis a $2.7 million signing bonus on a two-year, $6 million contract. According to a source with knowledge of that contract, Davis' reception total this season could add up to an additional $500,000 to next year's $2.4 million base salary.