As is the way of the world in 2020, Allen Robinson II is assumed to be angling for a trade out of Chicago because he has removed the Chicago Bears from his Instagram bio and deleted all Bears pictures from the account.
Speculation will be sure to swirl, but this is a development that the New England Patriots should jump all over. Lost in the excitement of the Cam Newton rush-heavy offense in Week 1 was the fact that the Patriots receivers still look like a problem on paper. Only two wide receivers even saw targets against Miami, and again Julian Edelman was the only one to consistently succeed. He earned a PFF grade of 72.7 for the game, catching five of the six targets sent his way for 57 yards, and while N’Keal Harry caught all five of his, they went for just 39 yards and the team is visibly trying to scheme him a free release and separation because of fears he can’t generate it on his own.
Edelman remains the only Patriots wideout that can consistently generate separation or win on a regular basis, and at some point that is going to cause problems for Newton once he has to air the ball out.
Robinson’s contract is also extremely affordable. He has a $10.9 million base salary for the 2020 season, which is a number that goes down with every game he plays in Chicago. Trading him away also frees up $13 million in cap savings for the Bears, and the Patriots have the second-most cap space in the NFL right now.
They are a team with the financial means to make this happen without thinking about it, and Robinson would present a massive upgrade to their receiver group. Since the start of the 2018 season, Robinson has a PFF grade of 90.3 against single coverage, a top 20 mark at the position. Edelman has the best figure among Patriots receivers almost 10 grading points lower at 81.7, and the only other two to have grades above 70 in that span are no longer on the roster.
New England is crying out for a receiver that can win against man coverage and separate to help out their quarterback.
Robinson, for his part, has also never played with a high-level quarterback, dating all the way back to his high school career. In college, he was largely responsible for the myth that grew up around Christian Hackenberg thanks to his stellar year during Hackenberg’s freshman season. In the NFL he first suffered through the Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville before then seeing history repeat itself in Chicago with Trubisky.
Robinson has never had a poor season in the NFL despite having yet to play with a quarterback capable of elevating his play. He has six seasons with PFF grades of at least 69, and his best years have pushed that grade into the 80s. A PFF grade of 80 or more for a receiver is typically good enough to rank in the top 15-20 of all wideouts, but the difference between that and a top 10 spot can easily be attributed to the quarterback throwing him the football.
Trubisky had a surprisingly good Week 1 performance in a victory for the Bears, but his overall grade was still just 64.7, and he missed several key throws.
It’s still too soon to tell how good Newton will be passing the football for the Patriots, but his resume at least contains evidence that he has it in him to match what Robinson can bring to the table and create something greater than the sum of its parts. His MVP season featured elite level quarterback play, and even since that time – often playing through injury – he has graded on average 7-10 points better than Trubisky over a season.
Lastly, the Patriots have a history of making trades to answer problems in their receiving corps. Brandin Cooks was acquired (and later shipped out) for a first-round draft pick, they have only just moved on from Mohamed Sanu after spending a second-round draft pick to acquire him, and there are other moves they have made to fill a problem spot with a proven veteran. They aren’t going to want to completely give up on Harry given where they drafted him, but at this point, he has yet to show he can be the No. 1 receiver they need.
It’s in Chicago’s interest to lock up Robinson long-term, but if they can’t, and that union is heading for divorce, it could be a huge opportunity for the Patriots to add a proven talent to a receiving corps that needs an impact player if this Newton offense is to be as successful as it can be.