Allen Robinson is unhappy with his contract as he plays the upcoming season on the franchise tag, but he won’t allow that frustration to interfere with his preparation.
Robinson showed up for mandatory minicamp after skipping two weeks of voluntary organized team activities and said Wednesday that he won’t hold out from training camp despite the likelihood that he won’t have a contract extension by then.
“That’s not in my control,” Robinson said. “That is what it is. I’m comfortable with that. Obviously, that’s a possibility. My main focus right now is to continue to get better.”
Robinson has been the Bears’ best receiver the last three seasons and was among the best in the NFL once fully healthy. In 45 games with the Bears, he has 255 catches, 3,151 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He finished a three-year, $42 million deal last season and will play for $17.9 million on the franchise tag this season. He and the Bears have until July 15 to agree to an extension, otherwise he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in March, but there doesn’t appear to be any momentum for that.
“I don’t have any updates,” Robinson said when asked if he was optimistic about negotiations. “That’s out of my control.”
Robinson said publicly for more than a year that he wanted a long-term contract to stay with the Bears — it would be surprising if he still has that desire at this point — but has seldom created a headache for them.
He briefly caused a stir last season when he stripped his social-media outlets of all Bears imagery but has otherwise remained steadfastly professional. While that’s supposedly the right thing to do, it seems to be working against him as the Bears know they can count on him regardless of whether they increase their offer.
“It just goes to show who he is,” coach Matt Nagy said of Robinson reporting for minicamp. “It shows what kind of teammate he is and what the game means to him. . . . He’s just a really good person who cares a lot about winning, and we appreciate that.”
He is also by far the Bears’ best offensive player and has produced regardless of how bad their quarterback play has been. He is fourth in the NFL in receptions (200) and yards (2,397) and tied for 18th in touchdown catches (13) the last two seasons — all with Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles and Chase Daniel at quarterback.
It’s hard to imagine how much worse the offense would’ve been without Robinson, but the Bears don’t seem to grasp that. It would be an ideal time to extend Robinson as he hits the prime of his career and rookie Justin Fields needs a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Kenny Golladay, for example, is the same age (27) as Robinson with an inferior résumé, and he signed with the Giants for four years and $72 million.
Rather than meet what Robinson believes to be his market value, however, the Bears have played hardball and hoped he would continue to show up on time and produce for them. Robinson’s statistics speak for themselves, and his reputation is impeccable among teammates and coaches, so that gamble has paid off for the Bears.
But it’s not the right approach with someone who has delivered for them in every possible way since his arrival. Robinson could be an essential part of the team for years to come, but instead it feels like only a matter of time before the Bears damage this relationship to a point where it can no longer be repaired.