LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and tight end Cole Kmet agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract extension ahead of the team's first training camp practice, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Field Yates.
The deal includes $32.8 million guaranteed and $20 million in new first-year cash, sources told Schefter and Yates. The $12.5 million average annual value is tied with New England's Hunter Henry for ninth most among tight ends, while the $32.8 million guaranteed is the fifth most at the position.
"It's just amazing," Kmet said Wednesday. "This whole thing from the beginning has been a dream come true. Just being drafted here first and being able to get an extension done and agree to terms on that is amazing. Looking forward to it and looking forward to the things that come with it -- and many playoff appearances and Super Bowls to come."
Kmet, who was entering the final year of his rookie deal, said contact talks began toward the end of OTAs and intensified over the past few days. He received a call from his representation 20 minutes before practice Wednesday morning that a deal had been agreed upon, leaving him moments to fire off a couple texts before hitting the field.
"Just relief," Kmet said upon finding out the deal was done. "Hard to focus on everything going on with stuff like that, getting phone calls all the time about it. It was nice to get to practice and start focusing on the things that matter."
Kmet, 24, is the first Bears player to receive a multiyear extension during Ryan Poles' tenure as general manager. He was drafted in the second round with the 43rd overall pick in 2020 by the Bears' previous front office, and he has 138 catches for 1,399 yards and nine touchdowns in 50 career games in Chicago.
"That's pretty cool when you get two sets of regimes, one that believed in me enough to draft me and a new one that comes in that believes in me enough to give me an extension," Kmet said. "It's pretty cool. It's a good feeling, and just kind of a [testament] to all of the work I've put in and just what I've been doing the last three years."
Kmet emerged as a favorite target of quarterback Justin Fields in 2022, leading the Bears in receptions (50), receiving yards (544) and receiving touchdowns (7, a career high). He joined Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Baltimore's Mark Andrews as the only tight ends to lead their teams in all three categories last season.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Kmet brought a balanced skill set to the Bears offense, ranking sixth in run block win rate among 45 qualified tight ends. Fields' completion percentage, yards per attempt and first-down percentage spiked when he shared the field with Kmet in 2022.
"He's a pro," Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. "He's a guy that can be trusted. He's a fantastic teammate with him just leading by example. We talk about modeling the behavior you want to see, talk about his practice habits, how he is in meetings, how he works with other players, how he works with the coaches, how he leads in times of adversity. He does all those things and I think that's what makes him a good leader."
Poles said Tuesday he did not have a specific timeline for when he would like to wrap up extension talks but intimated that at least one deal was in the works.
In the meantime, the Bears were able to lock down a cornerstone player to continue their rebuild after a 3-14 finish in 2022. After the addition of tight end Robert Tonyan this offseason, Kmet's role in Chicago's offense is expected to expand even further, according to Eberflus.
"Our offense is something that really enhances the tight ends," Eberflus said. "We'll see it more this year with the screens and the mismatches and the singles on the back side. He's developing just like we want him to and we're excited where he is now."
As Kmet reflected on his massive payday, he said the way his role has evolved from his college days at Notre Dame to what's been asked of him in the Bears offense serves as motivation entering his fourth season.
"It was funny, I was talking to someone the other day -- blocking really wasn't part of my game coming out, but it's had to form that way based on the offenses I've been in the past three years," he said. "I think that's become a good strength of mine. It's just always continuing to build my all-around game and be who I need to be that day.
"If I need to be on the line and we need to run the ball 40 times a game, I can be that guy. If we need to drop back 40 times to win a game, I can be that dude that is able to split out and do things as well. Just being able to continue to improve on all of those facets of the game."