CHICAGO – Bears general manager Phil Emery must have watched the Super Bowl.
That would seem kind of obvious, right?
But, hey, it’s dangerous to make assumptions in this line of work. Although unlikely, it could have been plausible that Emery spent his Super Bowl evening watching “Property Brothers” or “Real Housewives of Atlanta” or some other cable TV filler.
Now, I’m ready to announce with conviction: Emery watched the Super Bowl.
How do I know this?
Because Emery – and, by proxy, the Bears – signed a highly skilled tight end Tuesday. A real, living, breathing, blocking, pass-catching, modern-day tight end.
A few hours later, Emery went out and signed a Pro Bowl left tackle.
Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod, come on down.
Wow. What a start.
Of course, the Bears’ first season under head coach Marc Trestman will be decided on Sundays in autumn, not weekdays in March. But Emery provided his new coach with major upgrades at two of his team’s weakest – and most important – positions.
Let’s begin with Bennett.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound target caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns last season with the New York Giants. That’s better production than five-year veteran Kellen Davis has had in his career (47 catches, 529 yards, 11 TDs).
Now, instead of watching Davis miss blocks and drop passes and fall down, Trestman will be able to design plays for one of the NFL’s up-and-coming tight ends. Bennett, 26, will join Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett to present all sorts of matchup headaches for opposing defenses.
It’s no secret that dynamic tight ends have become an important ingredient for top offenses.
Remember last month’s Super Bowl – the one I’m now certain that Emery watched?
In that game, the Baltimore Ravens’ and San Francisco 49ers’ tight ends combined for 15 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown. That is not a typo.
Look no further than the Bears’ rivals in the NFC North to gauge the value of today’s tight ends. The Green Bay Packers have Jermichael Finley, the Detroit Lions have Brandon Pettigrew, and the Minnesota Vikings have Kyle Rudolph.
Then again, what good are multi-dimensional receiving targets if Cutler can’t take as much as a three-step drop without being planted in the Soldier Field turf?
That’s where Bushrod enters the equation.
For the past six seasons, Bushrod has helped to protect star quarterback Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. Bushrod has impressive size (6-foot-5, 315 pounds), two Pro Bowl nods at left tackle, and a Super Bowl ring from the 2009 season.
In New Orleans, Bushrod’s position coach was Aaron Kromer, the Bears’ new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He should have a great grasp of Kromer’s blocking schemes, and he can pitch in to help teach his new teammates.
It’s easy to pick on J’Marcus Webb because he is a gigantic goofball, but the truth is that he has developed into a capable starter during the past couple of seasons. By adding Bushrod to the mix, the Bears could slide Webb to right tackle, while former first-round pick Gabe Carimi could compete for a starting spot at guard.
Is the offensive line perfect? Of course not. Is it better? Absolutely.
Emery’s work is far from finished. He must figure out a way to add depth despite a budget that was constrained by Henry Melton’s $8.45 million franchise-tag price.
For starters, the Bears need a reliable middle linebacker. Maybe that player will be Brian Urlacher, whose first day as an unrestricted free agent passed quietly, or maybe it will be a younger player from outside of the organization.
The Bears also could use a few more “big uglies” on the offensive and defensive line, not to mention a nickelback, a deep-threat wide receiver and plenty else. Some of those voids will be filled via next month’s draft, while others will be filled sooner.
Based on Tuesday’s results, Trestman will have plenty to work with this season thanks to his aggressive general manager.
Yes, it was only one day for Emery and the Bears.
But it was a good day.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.