Biggest offseason developments: In an 11-day span in March, the Bears re-signed Dante Rosario, released him and re-signed him again — a carousel they rode in order to comply with a rules technicality to get the seven-year veteran back on a one-year, minimum-salary-benefit contract. Matthew Mulligan signed a one-year free-agent contract in April.
What to like: Martellus Bennett brings to tight end elements Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery provide at wide receiver. At 6-foot-6 with exceptional athleticism, his jumping ability and large catching radius enable him to catch contested throws in tight windows.
Remember his leaping 43-yard catch over Lardarius Webb in overtime of the Bears' 23-20 win over the Ravens? Although Josh McCown threw the pass, it exemplified how Bennett is an ideal target for quarterback Jay Cutler, who loves to trust his receivers to make back-shoulder catches and bring down jump balls.
In Bennett's first season with the Bears, his 65 receptions and 759 yards were career highs, and his five touchdown catches tied his career best. Mike Ditka's 75 receptions in 1964 mark the only greater single-season total by a Bears tight end.
His run blocking also was an asset at times. His nimble footwork helped him seal Browns safety T.J. Ward on the second level and spring Michael Bush's victory-clinching 40-yard touchdown run in Week 15.
Tight ends coach Andy Bischoff sees in Bennett a player determined to build on his strong Bears debut.
"No one within our offense took evaluation of himself better than him," Bischoff said. "I'm talking about running a flat route at a better angle. I'm talking about using this footwork in the run game instead of that footwork. The things we've identified for him as improvable areas, he is all over it."
Behind Bennett, the Bears appear deeper. When Bennett labored last season because of shoulder and knee problems, the Bears relied on offensive lineman Eben Britton as a blocking tight end. This year, Mulligan (6-4, 267) is positioned to help fill that role. The five-year veteran, whose previous NFL stops include the Jets and Patriots, served as the Bears' second tight end during many spring practices.
Bischoff likes Mulligan's professionalism and says Mulligan is fast enough to be more than just a blocker.
"He understands that he's searching for a role on this team that we really didn't have last year in a thick, wide body that can give you some point-of-attack presence," he said. "Then you add his special teams value. You add a guy who has been in a winning locker room. Lots of positives."
Preseason questions: There are four veterans vying for the second tight end spot. If that doesn't keep your attention during the fourth quarter of exhibition games, what will?
The Bears had to intensify the competition because Bennett's injuries last season exposed their lack of depth. Britton repeatedly blocked as an eligible receiver, but he wasn't a pass-catching threat, so that made the offense more predictable.
Entering camp, Mulligan appears to be the front-runner, but it will play out during exhibition games on offense and, perhaps more importantly, special teams.
Bischoff said he believes each of the tight ends competing for the No. 2 spot brings his "own wrinkle to the mix."
Zach Miller — not to be confused with Seahawks tight end Zach Miller — was out of football last season after the Buccaneers cut him in August. The four-year veteran and former Jaguar has impressed the staff with his intelligence.
"He's as bright as anybody," Bischoff said. "He's a former (high school) quarterback. Some guys … get it after one rep. He gets it before one rep. He's the guy you've got an odd-ball play in with the (second string), you put him in because you trust him."
Rosario is back after making one catch for 13 yards last season and contributing five special teams tackles in 15 games.
Currently on roster: 5
Projected on final roster: 2
Roster lock: Martellus Bennett
On the bubble: Zach Miller, Matthew Mulligan, Dante Rosario
Camp depth: Jeron Mastrud