The Chicago Bears are placing the franchise tag on wide receiver Allen Robinson II, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday. The seventh-year pass-catcher was the third-ranked player on PFF's free agency rankings.
Robinson posted an overall PFF grade of 88.3 last year, fifth in the league among wide receivers, despite suffering through the combination of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles throwing him the football.
Inept quarterback play has been the story of Robinson’s career dating back to at least high school. Since he entered the league, only 64.1% of his targets have been charted as “catchable,” 93rd among 102 qualifying receivers since 2014. It is simply remarkable that Robinson has consistently graded among the top 10 receivers in the league — and up to as high as No. 5 — with that baseline of scattergun passing.
The seventh-year wideout is one of the best receivers in the league at the catch point and has 19 more contested targets than the next-best player since the start of 2019. He also has plenty of route-running skills and isn’t just a receiver that wins with the ball in the air.
Just 27 years old, he is an elite playmaker who hasn't been able to live up to his potential because of the quarterback situation he has been dealing with. And while the Bears are correct to want to keep him in the building, they still don’t have an answer at that most important position: Who is going to throw Robinson the football in 2021?
Robinson could be a very real tag-and-trade option for a team willing to give up a significant amount of draft capital, capital that could potentially position Chicago better to attack one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It may cost them an elite No. 1 receiver to make it happen, but having that player in the building is a waste if they can’t pair him with somebody capable of consistently feeding him the football.
What it means for the Chicago Bears
Chicago didn’t have much of a choice here, especially as they’re still doing all they can to trade for a veteran quarterback, and any option would certainly want Robinson in the fold.
Rookie receiver Darnell Mooney had an extremely impressive debut season, but Mooney and WR3 Anthony Miller combined for 195 career receptions. Robinson hauled in 200 alone over his last two seasons in Chicago.
Robinson’s 131 first-down receptions are second only to Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins since 2019. His 47 contested catches over the same span is tops in the NFL. If Robinson were in a better passing offense, he’d be perceived as one of the league's best wide receivers.
While this move was necessary for Chicago, the failure to reach an agreement on an extension makes matters even more complicated for the Bears. They’re now projected to be approximately $25 million over the 2021 salary cap, which is currently 29th in the NFL, and they still don’t have a starting quarterback on the roster.
Robinson will play one more year in Chicago, and barring an extension coming before or during the 2021 season, it seems very likely he will be looking for a new team in 2022.
After an NFL career that has been spent playing with Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky and whomever the Bears start under center in 2021, Robinson will presumably look to play with a top quarterback at his next stop.
What it means for the Robinson and the wide receiver market
Robinson was arguably the best wide receiver available this offseason — with Chris Godwin having an advantage from an age perspective — but Robinson is the leader of the group in terms of career production and consistency.
With reports indicating that Lions receiver Kenny Golladay may avoid the tag and reach free agency, the soon-to-be-former Lions pass-catcher now becomes the clear No. 1 option as a true X receiver on the outside. Teams that were perhaps hoping to send in an offer for Robinson may now pivot to Golladay instead.
Fuller got off to a blazing start in 2020 as the No. 1 option for Deshaun Watson following DeAndre Hopkins' departure, with his 85.0 receiving grade ranking eighth among all wide receivers with at least 10 targets. A six-game PED suspension ended his season prematurely, and he still has one game left to serve in 2021.