The list of available wide receivers the Chicago Bears can sign in free agency is beginning to dwindle. Mike Williams re-upped with the Los Angeles Chargers on a three-year, $60 million deal on the same day that Davante Adams and Chris Godwin were slapped with the franchise tag by the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively.
Reports suggest the Dallas Cowboys are likely to re-sign Michael Gallup, too, which means the next best option at wide receiver for the Bears may in fact be… Allen Robinson?
Yes, Allen Robinson.
Look, I get it. Bears fans are angry at how Robinson played in 2021. Yes, there are reps on film that suggest he wasn’t giving 100% effort all the time. And sure, he dropped some passes that, in a normal Robinson season, he’d catch with his eyes closed. But he’s still one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL, and with how the 2022 free-agent market is shaping up, he may just be the best wide receiver available.
It’s sad that the Robinson-Bears relationship has deteriorated the way it has. The erosion is a byproduct of former coach Matt Nagy damaging the all-important trust a player has to have in his employer. Remember: these guys put their bodies on the line every single week; it’s reasonable for them to expect—at the very least—that their boss is telling them the truth.
We don’t know, and we’ll never know, exactly what happened between Robinson and the Bears behind the scenes. If I had to guess, he probably assumed former general manager Ryan Pace would do the right thing and reward him with a market-value contract extension. Instead, his free-agent movement was restricted by the franchise tag in 2021. It became apparent early in the 2021 season that Chicago’s offense, orchestrated by Nagy, was intent on making Darnell Mooney the target leader too, something that certainly caused Robinson’s guard to go up even higher.
Way to go, Nagy.
The end result was the worst year of Robinson’s career on the eve of unrestricted free agency. Yeah, I’d be angry too. And, yeah, once the season was lost, I’d probably try to preserve my greatest asset—my body—in an effort to get to free agency as a healthy commodity.
Mission accomplished, Robinson.
It’s hard to blame Robinson if that is, in fact, what he did. He didn’t suddenly become a bad receiver or a player who can’t separate or win in contested situations. He’s only 28 years old and speed was never his most valuable asset. Wide receivers with his playing style tend to produce into their early-30s; there’s a lot of gas left in his tank.
So maybe it’d be in the Bears’ best interest to extend an olive branch before the free agency negotiating window opens on March 14. Otherwise, Chicago may be forced to dig through the heap of second- and third-tier wide receivers to round out the roster’s pass-catchers that as of now only boast Mooney.
It was only one year ago that Bears fans were clamoring for Pace to extend Robinson; to ‘pay the man.’ Recency bias is a very real thing, and 2021’s poor performance has flipped the narrative around Robinson’s tenure in Chicago on its head. He’s no longer the beloved playmaker rising above a below-average supporting cast. Now, he’s thought of as a selfish diva who gave up on his team.
Maybe the truth of who Robinson is lies somewhere in-between. But there’s no denying he’s a top-shelf wide receiver who the Bears need to re-sign. Otherwise, they’ll realize just how valuable No. 12 is when he’s scoring touchdowns for someone else next season.