The Chicago Bears have about two weeks left to try signing Allen Robinson to a contract extension instead of letting him play the 2021 season under his franchise tag, but don’t expect the veteran wide receiver to share a peek behind the curtain.
In an interview last week on NFL Total Access, Robinson avoided providing any specifics about his contract talks with the Bears and reaffirmed his plans to play under the tag in 2021 if the July 15 deadline to extend franchise-tagged players passes without a new agreement in place.
Robinson signed his franchise tag with the Bears on March 18 after initially sounding against the concept of playing his next season under the tag, but the two sides have been allowed to continue talks about a possible long-term deal in the 15 weeks since. While he could face fines if he holds out of training camp, the 27-year-old has already said he is “comfortable” playing out the year on his tag.
And yet, when asked how confident he was about getting a deal done to stay in Chicago, Robinson didn’t have much to offer in the way of optimism.
“We’ll see,” Robinson said, via NFL.com. “I think the biggest thing like, again, like I said, just about going out there this year, having fun, making plays, trying to help this team get back into the playoffs. I think that’s the main thing. That’s what I’ve set out during the course of this offseason. Every time I get on the field, into my workouts and things like that, it’s how can I get better? How can I help put this team, how can I help put this offense in a better situation than we were in last year?”
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Robinson’s Value Continues to Climb
Robinson’s value has been on a steady rise for the past several seasons despite never having a terrific quarterback throwing him the ball. The seven-year veteran is coming off his second straight 1,000-yard season for the Bears after pulling down a career-best 102 catches in 2020 and will play the upcoming season on a fully guaranteed $17.98 million franchise tag, but even that is likely less than Robinson will earn on the open market as a free agent next offseason.
According to Spotrac projections, Robinson’s market value is expected to reach as high as $20 million per season on his next contract, putting him in the same range as wideouts such as Michael Thomas ($19.25 million average annual salary), Amari Cooper ($20 million) and Keenan Allen ($20.025 million). He is also scheduled to enter free agency at the same time as other upper-echelon wideouts, such as Davante Adams and Chris Goodwin.
The good news for the Bears is that they are currently projected to have the cap space to stay competitive in the market for Robinson (about $36.19 million, according to Over The Cap), but will they? And will Robinson have the desire to stay in Chicago if the 2021 season forces him to put up with more uneven quarterback play?
Could Fields Help Persuade Robinson to Stay?
The one ace the Bears might have up their sleeve at the moment is the one person every fan hasn’t been able to stop talking about: new rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
A great quarterback can change the entire feel and direction of a franchise. While Andy Dalton is expected to be the Week 1 starter, there is little doubt that the future is about Fields in Chicago, and that could help them when it comes to retaining their top wide receiver for the long-term future. Depending on when Fields takes over and how quickly he forms a connection with Robinson, Chicago could look a lot more appealing by the time next March arrives.
Now, maybe Darnell Mooney takes the next step in his development in 2021 and another Bears pass-catcher (Anthony Miller or Marquise Goodwin, perhaps?) steps up enough to make them feel like they don’t need to chase a top-dollar receiver. Robinson might also feel better about a fresh start somewhere other than Chicago if a better situation or better money dictates a change.
Either way, the Bears can only do themselves favors with Robinson and other free agents if they find a way to steady their quarterback play. Fields’ arrival has reignited immense confidence in fans of the franchise, but he still has to go out there and prove the Bears right. Until then, a cloud will at least be hanging in the distance for Chicago.