The Bears named 15-year NFL coaching veteran Clancy Barone as their new tight ends coach Thursday, a little more than a week after Matt Nagy fired four members of his staff, including previous TE coach Kevin Gilbride.
Barone, 56, was last in the NFL in 2018, when he served as the Minnesota Vikings’ co-offensive line coach, following one season working with their tight ends, including Notre Dame product and two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph.
Prior to his time in Minnesota, Barone spent the previous eight seasons on the Denver Broncos staff, including five years overseeing the TE position and the other three coaching the offensive line. Barone oversaw the breakout of former Pro Bowler Julius Thomas’ career, when the ex-basketball player caught a combined 24 touchdowns from Peyton Manning en route to earning a monster free-agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Barone cut his NFL coaching teeth in 2004 in Atlanta as an assistant O-line coach before being promoted to TEs coach the following season and working with Alge Crumpler, the franchise’s all-time second-leading receiving TE. Barone spent the 2007-08 seasons with the Chargers working with future first-ballot Hall of Famer and the NFL’s all-time leader in TD catches among tight ends, Antonio Gates.
Barone was also an O-line coach at Eastern Illinois from 2004-06, where he overlapped in his final season with Bears GM Ryan Pace, then a EIU Panthers defensive lineman.
Barone inherits a position group whose leading receiver last season, J.P. Holtz, was claimed off waivers in September and failed to surpass 100 yards. Starting “U” tight end Trey Burton never fully recovered from the mysterious groin injury that popped up on the eve of the wild-card defeat vs. his former team last postseason and was placed on I.R after only eight games and 14 receptions.
The Bears said last week Burton, who signed a four-year, $32 million contract and was named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2018, recently underwent hip surgery that they hope will fix his underlying injury issue.
Starting “Y” tight end Adam Shaheen, the 45th overall pick in the 2017 draft, was benched late in the season and eventually placed on season-ending injured reserve with only nine catches for 74 yards. When asked whether Shaheen would be back for the final year of his rookie deal in 2020, Pace said he remained under contract and in the team’s plans.
A critical position in Matt Nagy’s offense, tight end is perhaps the Bears’ greatest non-QB need of the offseason. With Burton’s availability a question mark and Shaheen seemingly a longshot to make the team’s 53-man roster next season, the Bears will be on the hunt for reinforcements both at the “U,” or “move” TE spot held by Burton, and the “Y,” the in-line blocker, a role in which Shaheen has provided sparse contributions.
Fuller returning to Orlando: A 2020 Pro Bowl alternate, Kyle Fuller will replace Rams star Jalen Ramsey at the annual all-star game in two weeks, marking his second consecutive year attending.
Fuller led the Bears with three interceptions and 12 passes defensed, in addition to trailing only LB Roquan Smith on defense with 82 tackles, while starting all 16 games for the third consecutive season.
The 27-year-old former first-round pick of ex-GM Phil Emery has played the best football of his career since the Bears declined to exercise their team option on his rookie deal in the spring of 2017. He responded with a career year, and the Bears placed the transition tag on Fuller, matching the the rival Packers’ offer sheet by signing him to a four-year, $56 million contract. Fuller reported recently restructured that deal, which expires in 2021.
The Bears must decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option for QB Mitch Trubisky this spring.