Allen Robinson is still open to the idea of playing for the Chicago Bears in 2021, but it has been “some time now” since his representation has spoken with the team about getting the high-value free agent a new contract.
The 27-year-old Bears wide receiver discussed his uncertain future Thursday during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio and said he “will be open to everything on the table” when it comes to his impending unrestricted free agency next month. One option could be Chicago franchise-tagging him, but it is also just as possible that Robinson will hit the open market and chase top dollar as one of the best wideouts available in 2021.
Here’s what Robinson said about his ongoing contract situation with the Bears:
“I would say it’s an open line of communication. We haven’t spoken to them for some time now, but there’s definitely an open line of communication. I’ve always said that I’ll be here if they’ll have me. That’s the main thing. Even dating to the season for myself, it wasn’t too much of frustration. I was just trying to do what was best for myself. At the same time, as far as the contract and things like that, if I wasn’t going to get a contract extension, I understood that.
“For myself, it was just weighing all my options and weighing as far as what would be best. I’ve got nothing but respect and appreciation for the franchise and for the organization. I think things get twisted with players when they start talking about frustration and things like that, rather than a player just trying to figure out what’s best for themselves and for their career at that specific time. It’s never been too much frustration. It’s a business.”
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Can Bears Afford New Deal for Robinson?
Robinson has been an integral part of the Bears offense since joining them in 2018 free agency on a three-year, $42 million contract, coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season in Chicago and averaging 12.4 yards per reception on 202 total catches in a Bears uniform. According to Pro Football Focus, he also leads the NFL with the most contested catches (49) since 2019.
Even with a breakout piece like Darnell Mooney waiting in the wings, the Bears would have a difficult time making up that kind of production without Robinson back in 2021.
The trouble is Robinson is expected to be seeking a third contract that would put him on par with some of his league peers, such as Los Angeles Chargers wideout Keenan Allen — meaning a long-term deal with an average annual value of about $20 million. It almost doesn’t matter whether the Bears feel Robinson deserves that type of payday. They are currently projected to be about $6 million over the 2021 salary cap and are still in the processing of finding a new quarterback, a move that won’t come cheap.
The Bears can create some significant cap space by cutting tight end Jimmy Graham ($7 million), cornerback Buster Skrine (post-June 1 cut/$8 million) and right tackle Bobby Massie (post-June 1 cut/$4.9 million) this offseason, and even more can come from the restructuring a few contracts. The question is whether the Bears will want to use their savings on locking down a top-dollar receiver with so many other needs to address.
Then again, there are other ways the Bears can hang onto Robinson for 2021 without taking a huge chunk out of their long-term financial future…
Transition or Franchise Tag for Robinson?
The Bears could take two other routes with Robinson: a franchise or transition tag.
According to OverTheCap, the projected cost of franchise-tagging wide receivers in 2021 will be $16.43 million, a smaller number than what the Bears would likely have to pay to sign Robinson to a contract extension but still hefty. The transition tag is less experience at around $14.27 million, but it gives other teams the opportunity to make a run at Robinson and would force them to match the top offer in order to keep him.
If general manager Ryan Pace plans to go all-in on making the Bears contenders in 2021 and finds the right deal for a new quarterback, Robinson would understandably become the next priority for his offense. Beyond Mooney, the Bears are lacking solid receiving options for next season after former second-rounder Anthony Miller and Javon Wims had disappointing years in 2020. Robinson’s return could see him and Mooney settle in as a dynamic duo for whomever the Bears choose to put under center.