The Bears’ failure to strike a deal with their best offensive player has gone well past the point of mere annoyance. They now have a major problem if wide receiver Allen Robinson wants out.
Robinson’s camp inquired about a trade but stopped short of formally requesting one, a source said, after he and the Bears had eight months to work out a contract extension but couldn’t. Robinson has said since last December that he envisioned “spending many more years” with the Bears and aspired to be their all-time leading receiver.
Those dreams look like vapor.
Throughout the offseason — right up until kickoff of the opener — there was an expectation that general manager Ryan Pace would finalize an extension for Robinson going into the last season of his three-year, $42 million contract.
So while his star player imagined standing among the greats in Bears history one day, here’s the countering visual Pace created: other teams raining money on their prized wide receivers while Robinson looked on drearily.
The Chargers gave Keenan Allen $80.1 million on a four-year extension. DeAndre Hopkins got two years and $54.5 million added to his contract with the Cardinals. Cooper Kupp, who is Robinson’s age but doesn’t have nearly the résumé, reupped with the Rams for three years and $49 million.
Those were just in the last two weeks, not to mention recent megadeals for the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper, the Falcons’ Julio Jones and the Vikings’ Adam Thielen.
That’s not a good look for the Bears, who instead of riding high on a 1-0 start will try to put out the fire of Robinson wanting out and teammates publicly calling for Pace to pay him. They might eventually get a deal done with Robinson, and they can still use the franchise tag to keep him, but they’re souring what should’ve been a long, successful partnership.
Those other receivers know their teams respect their value. Robinson can’t possibly think his does.
The Bears should, though, and it’s obvious to anyone. Robinson is exactly what they need. He’s extremely productive on the field, a model of how to practice and prepare, a beloved personality in the locker room and a conscientious citizen with various philanthropic pursuits.
That’s not just an outside observation of Robinson. It’s what Bears coach Matt Nagy has been saying constantly for the past year.
“When you produce the way that he produces and are the type of person he is,” Nagy said two weeks ago, “those are the type of people that you want for a while.”
Especially when they’re only 27. It’s easy to forget how young Robinson is because he’s a seven-year veteran and is regarded within Halas Hall as the ultimate professional.
He has been that regardless of what has gone on around him with the Bears and the Jaguars. It takes a rare talent to put up 1,000-yard seasons with Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky at quarterback.
Robinson is the only player Nagy has been able to count on. As his tight ends crumbled, his other skill players careened inconsistently and his quarterbacks spiraled, he has always had Robinson.
Since Nagy’s arrival in 2018, Robinson leads the team with 1,985 yards from scrimmage. It’s hard for a receiver to do that because of how often running backs get the ball, and doubly difficult when the quarterback play is as bad as it has been.
Last season, with Trubisky and Chase Daniel combining for an 84.1 passer rating, Robinson delivered a Pro Bowl-worthy season of 98 catches, 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns.
Nagy was so exasperated by Robinson being snubbed that he could barely express it.
“You really want to know?” he said before pausing. “Yeah, I’ll just say this: A-Rob is a pro. I’ll just leave it at that. A-Rob, he’s special. A-Rob, he’s unbelievable. Unbelievable. A-Rob is unbelievable.”
Nagy might want to tell his boss that unbelievable players aren’t cheap.