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Allen Robinson Is Well Positioned For A Big Deal From Chicago Bears

Nice play by Allen Robinson. 

While debate continues about whether Robinson has asked the Chicago Bears to trade him, there’s no doubt about his Twitter profile. It currently lists him as a Pro Bowl receiver, with no mention of the Bears.

Robinson has been unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a contract extension with the Bears since before the start of the 2019 season. The math becomes more complicated all the time, with the price for top wide receivers increasing — see Keenan Allen’s new deal ($20.025 million average for four years and Amari Cooper’s year-old deal ($20 million average for five years) — and the Covid-19 pandemic threatening the economic outlook. 

There’s only one certainty in this equation: The Bears need Robinson badly.

His signing as a free agent after four season in Jacksonville has filled a void in Chicago, offsetting the Bears’ lackluster history of drafting wide receivers.

They have used a top-50 draft pick on a receiver only once since taking Alshon Jeffrey in the second round in 2012. That was five years ago, and West Virginia’s Kevin White proved to be a major bust because of injuries and inconsistent performance. 

While quarterback play is always at the center of discussions about the Bears, the lack of proven weapons remains a major problem for a team that has built on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears traded running back Jordan Howard when it was time for his second contract and cut wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for salary-cap reasons last February. Gabriel, who was Mitchell Trubisky’s leading receiver in 2018, remains unsigned after opting out of the 2020 season.

Anthony Miller, in his third season after being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft, caught the game-winning pass in Sunday’s comeback victory over Detroit. But Robinson almost doubled Miller’s totals last year and remains the guy who defenses focus on stopping. 

The Bears’ running game shows promise behind second-year back David Montgomery. The tight end position looks upgraded with the signing of Jimmy Graham and the addition of Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet through the draft. But Robinson remains the essential ingredient. 

The 27-year-old from Penn State finished last season with 98 catches for 1147 yards and seven touchdowns — quite a feat considering Trubisky’s quarterback rating slipped from 70.8 to 42.6. He is considered a leader in the locker room, helping organize the off-campus workouts that allowed Trubisky and other veterans to prepare for the season while Covid-19 concerns locked them out of Halas Hall. 

Outside of drafting Miller with the 51st overall pick, the Bears have done little to lessen the leverage that Robinson has built. The 2020 draft was considered to be rich with wide receivers but General Manager Ryan Pace focused on the defensive side of the ball. He did take a flier on Tulane speedster Darnell Mooney in the fifth round, after 24 others had been selected. 

Ted Ginn Jr., who has never caught more than 56 passes in a season, and Cordarrelle Patterson give the Bears three receivers with 196-plus career receptions. That’s reasonable depth for this season but everything revolves around Robinson, both now and for the foreseeable future. 

This is the last season on Robinson’s three-year, $42-million contract. He could be maintained in 2021 through the franchise tag but that would have a major impact on the Bears’ salary cap situation, especially if the cap figure drops significantly from the current $198 million.

Pace is no doubt attempting to maintain as much flexibility as possible if this season ends with a lack of confidence in either of the two quarterbacks, Trubisky and Nick Foles. Trubisky will be in line for a major increase if he leads the Bears back to the playoffs.

But that’s a situation for down the road. The matter on the table at the moment is the need to keep Robinson long-term. 

The Bears have a strong history of working out contract extensions during the season. They need to do another one, sooner rather than later. Robinson holds the winning hand of cards.

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