The Bears can’t stop talking about how much they value receiver Allen Robinson.
They have one more day to actually act on it.
If the team and their receiver don’t agree to a contract extension by 3 p.m. Thursday — it’s unlikely they’ll get a deal done — Robinson will play the 2021 season on the $17.9 million franchise tag. He’d become an unrestricted free agent in 2022, too, unless the Bears decided to tag him again.
Doing so would further frustrate Robinson, who has been public about wanting a long-term deal for the past year-and-a-half. As far back as December 2019, Robinson said he wanted to remain with the franchise long enough to become the Bears’ all-time leading receiver. It’s within reach — another two seasons at Robinson’s current pace would surpass Johnny Morris, whose 5,059 career yards have stood since 1967.
The Bears, of course, have to find a way to keep Robinson around long enough to reach the milestone. That the two sides have been so divided on his value for the past year-and-a-half remains baffling.
Over the last two years, the list of wide receivers with more receiving yards than Robinson has two names on it. Only the Bills’ Stefon Diggs and the Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins can top Robinson’s 2,397 yards.
Only two receivers have logged more than Robinson’s 200 catches during the same time period: Hopkins and the Chargers’ Keenan Allen.
During the past two years, those three receivers caught passes from the 2021 MVP runner-up (the Bills’ Josh Allen); the last two Rookies of the Year (the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray); a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback (the Texans’ Deshaun Watson); a likely future Hall of Famer (the Chargers’ Philip Rivers); and Kirk Cousins, the Vikings passer whose $21 million base salary this year is the second-highest in the sport.
Robinson, meanwhile, had Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles and Chase Daniel throwing to him. That degree of difficulty makes it easy to project even gaudier stats for the 27-year-old Robinson were he ever paired with a franchise quarterback — at Halas Hall or somewhere else. If the Bears let Robinson walk after this season, Justin Fields, whom the Bears hope can be their franchise quarterback, won’t have one of the league’s top dozen or so receivers at his disposal in 2022.
The Bears aren’t the only team avoiding making a long-term investment in receivers, though. Last offseason, the Bills traded Diggs and the Texans dealt Hopkins — the two players above Robinson on the receiving yards list. Hopkins then signed a two year, $54.5 million extension with the Cardinals.
The Chargers gave Allen a four-year, $80.1 million extension, with $43 million guaranteed, in September — a good benchmark for Robinson’s value. Around the same time, Robinson was so annoyed with his own stalemate that his camp inquired about a trade — but stopped short of demanding one from the Bears.
The receiver market ran cold in March. The Giants gave Kenny Golladay the only impressive free-agent contract, a four-year, $72 million deal with $40 million guaranteed.
Robinson played the last three years under the $42 million contract he signed with the Bears in March 2018 while recovering from a torn knee. He outperformed that deal, catching 255 balls for 3,151 yards over three years, before signing the tender in March.
He didn’t participate in voluntary workout practices but showed up for mandatory minicamp in June. He said he wouldn’t hold out of training camp, which starts July 27, were he left playing on the franchise tag.
Robinson said last month that an extension wasn’t in his control but he was “comfortable with that.”
The Bears, though, shouldn’t be able to say the same — with a straight face, at least — if, after Thursday, they let the stalemate continue for another year.