The next mile marker in the seemingly endless drama between the Bears and star wide receiver Allen Robinson is the franchise tag deadline. While that wouldn’t fully resolve the situation, it would at least clarify what direction it is headed.
The original deadline was set for Tuesday at 3 p.m., but with the NFL yet to finalize its salary cap for next season, there will almost certainly be a delay.
That’s not necessarily bad news for Robinson and the Bears. Any additional time for the two sides to negotiate a contract extension helps them avert the troublesome option of the team using the franchise tag.
The Bears seem to have no problem going that route, based on general manager Ryan Pace’s comments last week, but Robinson has made it abundantly clear how much he detests the franchise tag.
Then again, the extra time might not make any difference. Robinson and the Bears are at an impasse despite the following:
— They’ve had more than a year to figure this out.
— Robinson is far and away the best offensive player on a team with minimal firepower otherwise.
— He has openly (and repeatedly) said he wants to be with the Bears long-term.
That makes it sound so easy, but it never is. Not for the Bears.
Rather than pay Robinson what his production has merited — production, by the way, that came while playing with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles — the Bears have been comfortable playing hardball with one of their most exemplary and essential employees.
They got away with it once, apparently, so why hesitate to take Robinson for granted again? When players around the NFL, including Bears running back Tarik Cohen, signed a wave of extensions in September and Robinson got shut out, he suggested the Bears should trade him and wiped all of his social media accounts of their logo. But after that brief bristling, he went right back to work and put up a season of 102 catches, 1,250 yards and six touchdowns.
Few Bears wide receivers have ever put up numbers like that, and everyone but the Bears seems to value Robinson’s talent appropriately. He has been seeking a deal of at least $20 million per year, a source said, and Spotrac calculated his market value at a four-year, $80.2 million deal based on contracts signed by Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper and Tyreek Hill. If Robinson hit free agency, it’s highly likely he’ll get an offer along those lines.
Meanwhile, the Bears have been hoping he’ll accept a salary in the $16-18 million range. The franchise tag would likely cost them $18 million.
Pace sounded ready to use it when he said last week, “That tool’s there for a reason... We want to keep our good players, and Allen is a good player for us.”
Everything he said is true, but it that approach assumes there will be no fallout from forcing Robinson into a one-year deal that only prolongs the tension that has surfaced over the last few months. It assumes he’ll sign his tag and show up for training camp despite what will certainly be increased frustration with the Bears.
The Bears could avoid all that by making peace and securing a vital player for the next several years, and any delay in the franchise tag deadline helps keep that possibility in play.