The Chicago Bears are signing former Pittsburgh Steelers’ TE Jesse James, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 25, 2021
It is a one-year deal. Financial terms of the contract weren’t immediately disclosed.
James was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by the Steelers. He spent four years, his rookie contract, with the team, catching 120 passes for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns. His most productive year came in his final one, catching 30 passes for 423 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. In 2017, he set a single-season high with 43 receptions.
He cashed in with a big offseason deal with Detroit before the 2019 season. But the Lions drafted T.J. Hockenson in the first round just weeks later, pushing James into reserve status. He caught just 30 passes in two years and was cut this offseason under new head coach Dan Campbell.
James would’ve made sense as a fit in Pittsburgh to be the team’s #3 tight end. A Western PA native, he would’ve been back home, too. But James’ snaps as a third string tight end would’ve been light unless he beat out Pat Freiermuth for the #2 job. Freiermuth has reportedly impressed early on in training camp.
Kevin Rader, Zach Gentry, and Dax Raymond will battle for that third tight end spot. Rader is the best blocker and special-teamer and should have the edge on the other two. The team could always look outside the organization at roster cutdowns too so no one’s roster spot should be considered safe until they’re on a plane to Buffalo for Week 1.