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Bears WR Allen Robinson presses on through contract-extension impasse

Other than a brief flare-up, Robinson has been a professional about his contract status. That doesn’t mean the Bears should let it linger.

Allen Robinson is on track for one of the best seasons ever by a Bears wide receiver despite their quarterback problems.
Allen Robinson is on track for one of the best seasons ever by a Bears wide receiver despite their quarterback problems.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Every morning when he -arrives at Halas Hall, coach Matt Nagy faces a long list of -problems.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson is seldom one of them. There was that one-day flare-up over his contract in September, but aside from that, Robinson has been the steadiest, most dependable player in an offense that has been nothing but turbulent.

“He’s so consistent, and I love that about him,” Nagy said. “There’s never a day where he treats it a little bit different [by easing off]. He treats a Wednesday like he does a game day, and that’s hard to find in every single player.

“We love that. We love having him.”

But in the NFL, love is expressed in dollars, not sonnets.

It’s not that Robinson needs a couple of extra million to pay off the mortgage on his third home. It’s that he wants to know the Bears value him as much as other teams value their top players. And the reason he and the Bears have gone 329 days since the end of last season without agreeing on an extension to his expiring three-year, $42 million deal is that the Bears’ offers have fallen well short of Nagy’s flowery praise.

Robinson will hit free agency unless they strike a deal or the Bears use the franchise tag on him, which is always preferable to avoid. After seeing several wide receivers sign for more than $20 million per year, any Bears offer in the teens is a nonstarter.

With a reduced salary cap in 2021 because of coronavirus-related revenue losses, OverTheCap projects the franchise tag for a wide receiver to be a little over $16 million.

That’s a cheaper way for the Bears to retain Robinson, but it’s bad business with someone they value. Robinson would obviously bristle at that move, and it would leave him and the Bears heading into the same situation a year from now.

Another year of this impasse might break him, but Robinson has handled it professionally this season.

“After Week 2 or Week 3, I was putting that behind me,” he said. “It comes down to just playing. That’s the most important thing right now. It’s about playing well [and] trying to help get this thing turned around.”

As has been the case throughout his seven-year career, Robinson produces no matter what. Considering how much turmoil and futility the Bears have endured and might continue to suffer for the foreseeable future, they’d be foolish and irresponsible to let Robinson walk.

He had a 1,400-yard season with Blake Bortles as his quarterback in Jacksonville. He went for 1,147 yards with Mitch Trubisky last season. And he’s on track for 1,200-plus yards this season despite Nick Foles and Trubisky combining to give the Bears the sixth-worst team passer rating in the NFL.

Imagine what Robinson could do in a better offense with a better quarterback. He probably imagines quite often.

Robinson has been the only thing consistently right with an offense that sat 31st in points and yardage going into Sunday. Rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney has been promising and tight end Jimmy Graham has had his moments, but nobody on the team is close to matching Robinson’s contribution.

His 755 receiving yards are more than double the total of anyone else on the roster and account for 25.1% of the Bears’ offense. He is on pace to become the Bears’ first 1,200-yard receiver since 2013.

Only six receivers in the league were ahead of him in yardage, and all but one had a quarterback in the top half of the league in passer rating. Robinson was also second in catches of 20 yards or more with 14.

He has been targeted a team-high 95 times, third in the NFL, and dropped only one pass, according to Pro Football Reference. He has caught 66.3% of the passes intended for him, which is impressive considering how often the Bears’ throws require gymnast-like flexibility to be completed.

And on top of all that production from a receiver still in his prime at 27, Robinson is the ideal leader of his position group as the Bears try to develop Mooney and future additions into top-tier offensive weapons.

“He has a presence about him that permeates not only through the offense but through the whole team,” said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who had not coached Robinson before this season. “He doesn’t have to say a lot for that presence to be felt. People trust him. People know what kind of player he’s going to be and what kind of person and teammate he’s going to be.

“When you come in the building, you hear a lot about it. . . . Now that I’ve had the chance to be around him and see it, everything I heard is true. I think the whole team feels it.”

The essential question is whether Bears management feels it enough to pay Robinson what he believes he’s worth, or whether the front office is content to let a franchise-shaping player like him get that money somewhere else.