Look for Allen Robinson to be one of the top free agents on the NFL market next year, not a long-term target for Justin Fields.
Thursday is the deadline to sign players who have received franchise tags for the upcoming season, and there has been no indication the Chicago Bears are close to a contract extension with the 28-year-old Robinson. He is set to play this season at the franchise figure of $17.88 million for wide receivers.
While Robinson said he would not be pleased if the Bears used the franchise tag, he appears to have accepted that he needs one more healthy season before signing his long-term deal. He attended a mandatory minicamp and seems unlikely to hold out when training camp begins later this month at Halas Hall.
The Bears’ camp is sponsored by Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar. Players are scheduled to report on July 27, with the first practice on July 28. The Bears will hold joint practices with the Miami Dolphins Aug. 11 and 12 in advance of an exhibition game at Soldier Field on Aug. 14.
Despite the Bears’ poor quarterback play, Robinson has been one of the NFL’s top receivers — and the best thing about the Chicago offense — since he signed a three-year, $42-million contract before the 2018 season. He made 102 catches for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns from Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles last season.
Six wide receivers have long-term deals worth at least $80 million, which appears to be Robinson’s target for a long-term deal. Those on the books range from Keenan Allen’s four-year, $80.1-million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers to Amari Cooper’s five-year, $100-million deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
It does not appear the Bears have been willing to go to that level in their talks with Robinson. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network tweeted on Tuesday that it does not appear likely the Bears will sign Robinson to a long-term deal.
The Bears have invested heavily in trying to find their long-term quarterback. But after trading up for Ohio State’s Fields in the 2021 draft, they can plan on carrying him on his rookie contract in 2023 and ’24, increasing their flexibility to build around him. They have Andy Dalton and Foles signed to contracts set to bring combined cap hits of almost $12 million this season and $13 million in 2022.
Fields signed a four-year deal for about $19 million. His biggest annual cap hit is $6 million in 2024, although the Bears could replace his rookie contract with a bigger, longer one if he succeeds where Trubisky failed.
The Bears enters 2021 with Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller and Marquise Goodwin as the only receivers who have caught 50 passes in a season. Demiere Byrd, who had 47 catches for New England last year, joined Goodwin in signing as a free agent last spring.
Kenny Golladay, who received a $72-million deal with the New York Giants after leaving Detroit, was the top wide receiver among unrestricted free agents last spring. The next biggest deal was Corey Davis’ for $37.5 million with the New York Jets.
Look for much more action next spring. Robinson could enter the market alongside Chris Godwin, Davante Adams, Will Fuller, Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and T.Y. Hilton.
The website spotrac.com ranks the Green Bay Packers’ Adams first among those receivers, followed by Robinson and Godwin (Tampa Bay). Using age and production as criteria, it estimates their market value on four-year deals this way: Adams, $99.9 million; Robinson, $80.2 million, and Godwin, $68.7 million.
In addition to those players, veteran wide receivers JuJu Smth-Schuster, Emmanuel Sanders, A.J. Green, Keegan Cole, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, DeSean Jackson, John Brown, Zach Pascal, Tim Patrick and Breshad Perriman are also unsigned beyond 2021.
You’d think it would be easier for the Bears to retain Robinson, who has said he wants to remain in Chicago, rather than replace him. But the closer he gets to free agency, the less likely it seems they will meet his contract demands.