Cole Kmet's contract will look like a bargain in two years
The Chicago Bears still have the most cap space in the league, and they were wise to use a chunk of it to lock down Cole Kmet through 2027.
They signed the pass-catcher to a four-year, $50 million contract with $32 million guaranteed on Wednesday. Some believed the Bears overpaid when the move was announced, but that is not the case (at all) when you break down the numbers and compare his deal with others at the position.
Kmet has improved every year and is still ascending at only 24 years old. The front office clearly believes he is one of their best players, and Ryan Poles made that clear when Kmet was the only player he praised when asked about blue-chip players on the Bears roster during his end-of-the-year press conference in January.
His contract ranks tenth at the position in per-year average, and he is the only player under the age of 27 in that group. To put his age into perspective, he is only six months older than Dalton Kincaid, whom the Bills selected in the first round of this year's draft. Speaking of Buffalo, his deal is a tick below the one they signed Dawson Knox to ahead of the 2022 season.
Likewise, he is also making more than $1 million less on a per-year average than both Evan Engram and David Njoku. While they have developed into solid field-stretching targets, they are 29, and 27, respectively, and could be nearing the end of their prime by the time their contracts are in the books. Meanwhile, Kmet will be 28 when he is next scheduled to put pen to paper, and he should be in a prime position to cash in again.
Kmet developed into one of the Bears' top offensive weapons in 2021, when he was second on the team with 60 catches for 612 yards. While his receiving yards took a step back last season (he finished the year with 50 catches for 544 yards), he established himself as Justin Fields' go-to target in the red zone and finished with seven touchdowns after failing to reach the end zone the year prior.
Kmet is a big-bodied receiver who effortlessly boxes out defenders in the passing game. His sneaky athleticism also allows him to stretch defenses down the seam, and he has shown a knack for running through defenders in the open field.
The tight end position in the modern-day NFL has evolved as teams have prioritized players who can impact the game through the air. However, having someone who is just as adept at holding his own on the line of scrimmage as he is at going over the middle adds another element to an offense.
While Kmet's pass-catching ability is impressive on its own, his deal stands out amongst his peers when you consider that he has already established himself as one of the league's premier blockers at the position. He led all tight ends with 389 run-blocking snaps and was one of only four players with over 400 total blocking snaps (he also had the most there with 473).
His detractors believe he has not lived up to the billing of a second-round selection after the Bears selected the Notre Dame standout with the 43rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, those skeptics fail to recognize just how long it takes for tight ends to find their footing. It often takes a few years for players to reach their potential, and it is reasonable to believe that the transition for Kmet was especially difficult, considering he was so young when he got drafted.
Notre Dame has earned a reputation as a tight end factory over the years, and Kmet is the next in line to represent the Fighting Irish amongst the league's elite players at the position.
His contract may seem like a lot of money for a player that has yet to reach his potential, but it will look like a bargain when other players sign deals in upcoming seasons. Ryan Poles will look like a genius for k-mitting to Kmet when all is said and done.