Bears RB Tarik Cohen ‘left money on the plate’ in push for Allen Robinson’s extension

The Bears secured Cohen through 2023 and avoided letting him leave in free agency. Will they do the same for Robinson?

SHARE Bears RB Tarik Cohen ‘left money on the plate’ in push for Allen Robinson’s extension
Tarik Cohen averaged 7 yards per touch in the Bears’ first two games.

Tarik Cohen averaged 7 yards per touch in the Bears’ first two games.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Tarik Cohen should — and probably did — get every dime he can out of the Bears, but Allen Robinson’s status was very much on his mind as he negotiated and celebrated his contract extension.

The Bears gave Cohen, a running back they picked in the fourth round in 2017, a three-year, $17.3 million contract late Saturday. The timing was slightly surprising because there was a swell of momentum within Halas Hall to secure Robinson, the best wide receiver they have had in years, while it appeared the team would make Cohen prove himself coming off a down season.

But in the ongoing push to keep Robinson around, Cohen digressed from the conversation about his new deal to campaign for his teammate.

“Regardless of whether I got mine or not, it’s definitely time for him to get his,” Cohen said. “I even left some money on the plate. I took less so he could get more, so to say. I would definitely love to see my boy get extended. It means a lot to the team.”

That was most likely a joke about leaving a little money for Robinson, who is negotiating closer to the $20-million-per-year level.

While Robinson’s deal comes down to the Bears’ budget, Cohen’s was in question because it was unclear whether the team wanted to commit long-term after his production plummeted last season.

Cohen went from an indispensable talent who led the team with 1,169 yards of offense, scored eight touchdowns and was an All-Pro punt returner in 2018 to someone who was being squeezed out of game plans last season. His yards per touch dropped from 6.9 to 4.7, and he had five games with 30 or less total yards.

That prompted him to do some reckoning as he headed into a contract year, and coach Matt Nagy saw the difference right away. The Bears gave Cohen a checklist of things they wanted him to improve upon, and Nagy said he “hit that full steam ahead.” It was evident in the opener, when he ran powerfully and vertically for 5.9 yards per carry.

“They know I had a bad year last year,” Cohen said. “And they saw the way I approached this offseason, putting last year behind me and just trying to be a better me and fit better into the offense and become that weapon that they see me as.”

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was ahead of his peers by seeing that potential in Cohen as a 5-6 running back at North Carolina A&T, a school that has produced just 13 NFL players in the last two decades. He has been one of Pace’s greatest success stories.

The Bears took Cohen at No. 119 overall after 26 running backs and wide receivers already had been picked. Early in his fourth season, Cohen ranks 14th in his class in total offense with 1,555 yards receiving and 1,080 rushing.

Pace has been rewarded for his confidence in Cohen, and Cohen was rewarded by a seismic raise from his four-year, $3 million rookie deal. He’ll get at least $9.5 million guaranteed, which is a landmark payday that doesn’t feel real to him yet.

“Right now, it’s just like a contract extension; Nothing’s hit my account yet,” he said. “Once I do something for my family, like get my mom a house, I feel like that’s when the moment will really hit me.”

Cohen also called it a “well-deserved” extension and thanked the Bears for offering him “a good deal” to stay in a situation he likes. He seems to be the type of versatile playmaker Nagy covets for his offense. If they rediscover what made Cohen so dangerous in 2018, the Bears will be glad to have him at this price.

Now, just as Cohen did, they must turn their attention fully to Robinson.

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