Bears WR Allen Robinson gets job done either way, but could use some help
Without a second viable pass-catching threat or a decent quarterback, Robinson gave the Bears a Pro Bowl-level season in 2019. Imagine what he could do with better players around him.
As the Bears go into a season with rampant uncertainty, they know they can count on wide receiver Allen Robinson.
He remains the most reliable, productive player in their offense, a guy who seems to do everything right at all times — exactly what the team’s young, unsteady wide receivers need as an example.
The Bears can even depend on Robinson to avoid stirring controversy about the long overdue contract extension he hasn’t gotten.
“I’m not really too focused on that right now,” he said Friday. “My main focus is on camp. You know, we have a game in about a month. Whatever happens with that happens.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace often finalizes extensions during the preseason, but it’s odd that Robinson’s wasn’t done months ago. It’s no secret he wants to be with the team long-term after saying it outright last season and publicly stating his goal of being the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.
Given the Bears’ T-formation tradition and general aversion to a functional offense, that mark is actually reachable for Robinson within three years. After just 29 games in Chicago, he already ranks 39th in team history in yards receiving and trails all-time leader Johnny Morris by a little over 3,000. For a franchise that has been around for a century, that’s all it would take.
“As far as how comfortable I am here and how much I like it here, I definitely would foresee spending many more years here,” Robinson told the Chicago Sun-Times in December.
As it stands, he would play out the final season of his three-year, $42 million contract and hit free agency in March. His $14 million average annual pay ranks 18th at his position.
Robinson has been so good for so long that it’s easy to forget he’s still 26 (at least for another week). He’s still in his prime and would be well worth the investment of another big contract. For a rough idea of what he could draw on the open market, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen lags behind Robinson’s production across the board and got a four-year, $64.2 million deal a year ago.
Pace gambled on Robinson coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the spring of 2018 and has more than gotten his money’s worth. He was 13th among NFL receivers in yards (1,147) and touchdowns (seven) and sixth in catches (98), all while playing for a team that produced the eighth-worst passer rating in the league at 85.2.
Mitch Trubisky might not be his quarterback anymore, of course. Robinson was as nimble in discussing the quarterback competition — it pits his guy for the last two years against newcomer Nick Foles — as he is catching a ball near the sideline.
His initial impression of Foles is that he’s living up to everything people have said about him — “a really good teammate, he’s a competitor, just all-around a good player” — throughout his nine-year career. Robinson mentioned how sharp Trubisky’s throws have been, too, and added, “You can just tell when he steps onto the field the things that he sees and stuff, that happens a lot faster.”
He also repeated a line the Bears have been delivering all offseason, that the offense needs to be “executing no matter who’s under center and just trying to make plays.” In Robinson’s case, it’s probably true that it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback. He’ll produce either way, which is why he’s so valuable.
Any conversation about his career needs to include that he posted 1,000-yard seasons with both Blake Bortles and Trubisky throwing to him. You could put a man in the Hall of Fame for that alone.
But beyond that, Robinson is the ideal tutor for upstarts Anthony Miller, Darnell Mooney and Javon Wims. All three are eying a big role this season, and they could increase their chances by paying close attention to Robinson.
“He practices how you’re supposed to practice,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He takes notes and watches film how you’re supposed to . . . he gets with the quarterback during practice and talks about details, and then when he plays on Sundays, he produces.
“He’s a great mentor for all these young kids we have on this team and . . . he does it consistently every single day. Every single day.”
If one or two of them — Miller is the one to watch — emerge as a complementary piece in the passing game, it would make Robinson’s job easier. He certainly enjoyed the opportunity that came with being targeted so frequently (28 percent of the Bears’ passes went his way), but he might be more effective with those chances if defenses aren’t able to zero in on him.
If Miller has a breakthrough season, Jimmy Graham or Cole Kmet become a threat at tight end, or running back David Montgomery becomes more of a pass catcher, that would only help Robinson. But if none of that materializes, he’ll still get the job done. He always does.