Now seven weeks into the 2021 NFL season, the Chicago Bears’ passing game is no longer Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood. With just 23 catches, 250 yards, and one touchdown, Allen Robinson is having the worst season of his career, which begs the question: is it time for the Bears to trade him?
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to explain why Robinson’s stats aren’t what we’re used to seeing from him. The Bears are going through the expected struggles with a rookie quarterback and are only a few weeks into offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s play-calling regime. But Robinson’s career narrative has always been that he’s the kind of player who rises above poor quarterback play and underwhelming offensive design.
Robinson was a dominant playmaker with the Jacksonville Jaguars while catching passes from a misfit collection of quarterbacks, including Blake Bortles. He thrived in Chicago despite being targeted by players like Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel, and Nick Foles. Yet, in 2021, with the most naturally talented quarterback he’s ever played with (Justin Fields), he’s been nearly invisible.
Robinson’s disappearing act continued in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he totaled just two catches for 16 yards on four targets. He hasn’t had more than 63 yards in any game this season, and his lone touchdown came in Week 2 against the Bengals when he totaled just two catches for 24 yards.
The Bears made the controversial decision to place the franchise tag on Robinson last offseason rather than sign him to a multi-year contract extension. The wide receiver market would’ve demanded that Chicago pay Robinson a deal close to Amari Cooper’s: five years, $100M ($20M per season). General manager Ryan Pace wasn’t comfortable committing that kind of money to Robinson and opted instead to pay him the one-year price tag of nearly $18M.
It was the right decision.
Second-year wideout Darnell Mooney leads all Bears receivers in catches and yards, and out-targeted Robinson in Week 7 once again, five to four. In fact, Marquise Goodwin was just as active as Robinson in the passing game against the Buccaneers. He, too, had two catches for 16 yards on four targets.
Compare Robinson’s 2021 season to 2020, when he had just one game with two catches or less (the season finale). Robinson had 11 games last year with at least nine targets. He has just one game this season with more than seven. It’s clear that Fields—and the offense’s design—is moving away from Robinson this year. And if that’s the case, then Pace should consider moving one of his most tradable assets to recoup draft picks he gave away in the trade to move up for Fields in the 2021 draft.
There’s always a chance Robinson’s season will reverse its course. As Fields becomes more comfortable as an NFL starter, and if the offensive line gives the passing game more time to operate, it’s possible the Robinson we’re used to seeing returns and begins making plays again in Chicago. But with 10 regular-season games remaining on his contract, the odds that he does enough in the next 2.5 months to earn a massive contract extension become less likely.
Robinson has been one of the few offensive bright spots on a Bears team that’s lacked much star power on that side of the ball in recent years. But even the brightest of stars dim, and Robinson’s time as Chicago’s alpha-wideout is fading.
The list of teams that would be interested in acquiring Robinson is likely a long one. Contenders like the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills could use a player like him to put their already powerful offenses over the top, and there’s no doubt he’d command a second-round pick. The Bears are 3-4 and headed for a .500 season, at best. Adding a second-round pick for a player they’re likely to lose in the offseason is a long-term win, even if it would sting Bears fans in 2021.
Robinson deserves to get paid, and he deserves an opportunity to play for a stable organization that can—finally—take advantage of his near-special skill set. The onus is on Pace to make sure Chicago doesn’t end the Robinson era without anything to show for it.
- Sep 29, 2023
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