Anthony Miller didn’t make it to the 2021 season as a Bear after all.
The Bears agreed to trade the enigmatic wide receiver to the Texans, sources confirmed Saturday night, three days before the team’s veterans were set to report to training camp. It’s unclear what exactly the Bears are getting in return for Miller — NFL Network said it was a swap of late-round picks — but it doesn’t figure to be much.
“Thank you for everything, Chicago,” Miller, who is entering the last year of his rookie contract, wrote on Instagram. “I’m truly grateful and appreciative of everything the organization has done for me.”
Miller’s last game was a telling one: he was ejected for fighting Saints cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had forced Javon Wims’ ejection using similar tactics earlier in the year, in the wild-card playoff loss. Because of Wims’ experience in the Week 8 overtime loss, the Bears held a 15-minute meeting the week of the postseason game to implore receivers not to get suckered into fighting Gardner-Johnson. Miller did anyway, despite knowing he was essential with fellow receiver Darnell Mooney was injured.
Chairman George McCaskey told WMVP-AM in January that “I have a bigger problem with Anthony’s ejection [than Wims’] because they sat him down and they told him, ‘Listen, watch out for this player. He’s a punk. He’s going to try to get under your skin.’”
Asked whether Miller would return for 2021, McCaskey said, “that’s not up to me.”
The Bears tried to trade him around the draft. They’d been frustrated with Miller’s inconsistency since they traded up to draft him from Memphis in the second round in 2018. A talented slot receiver who can beat man coverage, Miller caught seven touchdowns as a rookie. He posted his best season in 2019, catching 52 passes for 656 yards and two touchdowns.
Miller slumped last year, catching 49 passes for 485 yards and going long periods without significant contributions. The Bears tried to push Miller; in May, receivers coach Mike Furrey said the team had enough depth to not have to rely on him.
“It’s not going to be a need-base, you know — we don’t need you,” Furrey said. “We’ve got guys that are going to be able to produce. You better be a pro, you better be on your details, you better do what we’re asking you to do.”
The Bears drafted North Carolina slot Dazz Newsome to compete with him, though. Newsome broke his left collarbone in early June but was expected to be ready around the start of camp. The Bears also signed Damiere Byrd, who caught 47 passes for 604 yards with the Patriots last year, to a one-year contract.
Coach Matt Nagy later felt compelled to clarify the Bears still needed Miller.
“[Furrey’s] message was about the depth that we have at that position ...” Nagy said in May. “[Miller] is super-motivated to have a great offseason and training camp and control what he can control.”
His training camp competition, as it turns out, will be with another team.