Two years after making him one of their big free agent additions with a four-year, $32 million contract, the Chicago Bears have released tight end Trey Burton, as first reported by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Designated as a post-June 1 cut, Burton was due $8.5 million in 2020 despite starting just five games the season prior, and his release saves the team just about $1 million.
Originally undrafted out of Florida in 2014, the 28-year-old Burton cemented himself as one of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's top targets during his Bears debut, hauling in a career-high 54 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. But a groin injury suffered just before Chicago's playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Burton's former team, ultimately hindered the tight end throughout 2019. The ex-Eagles reserve landed on injured reserve in November after just eight games and 14 catches.
Bears coach Matt Nagy has often emphasized the importance of the tight end in his offense, particularly as a safety valve for Trubisky. And while the team acquired Burton's former teammate in quarterback Nick Foles this offseason, the Bears also signaled Burton's role could soon be rendered moot by signing former Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million deal. Chicago was also reported to be interested in new Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper, who landed a lucrative contract after leaving the Atlanta Falcons.
Burton underwent hip surgery this offseason, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, with the intention of opening 2020 training camp -- whenever that occurs -- fully healthy. The fact the Bears still owe Burton $4 million, Schefter added, could help the seventh-year veteran find a new home -- at a discounted rate -- more quickly.
Before joining the Bears, Burton spent four years with the Eagles, working his way up from a special-teams role to become a popular Carson Wentz target. An unofficial H-back project coming out of Florida, he started four games in 2016, Wentz's rookie year, before catching five touchdowns as Zach Ertz's No. 2 during the Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl season -- capped by his trick TD pass to Foles in the team's championship win over the New England Patriots.