8 important Bears who are set to become free agents in 2021
Several key Bears are on expiring deals
The Chicago Bears will enter the 2020 NFL season with several key players on expiring contracts, which will challenge GM Ryan Pace's creativity both before, during and immediately after this season. With the NFL salary cap expected to shrink next offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there won't be as much money to offer some Bears fan-favorites.
Here's a look at eight important Bears who are set to hit the open market next winter.
Allen Robinson, WR
This one matters. Big time. If the Bears don't extend Robinson before the start of the 2020 season, all bets are off as to whether he'll return to Chicago in 2021. He's going to command top-of-the-market money and with Chicago projected to be in the bottom five teams in cap space next year, per Spotrac, Pace could be forced to use the franchise tag on A-Rob.
Tarik Cohen, RB
Cohen's impact in Matt Nagy's offense has been the tale of two seasons. After looking very much like the offensive weapon he was projected to be in 2018, his play regressed mightily in 2019. As a result, his role moving forward is somewhat in doubt. Still, if he gets back to being a factor in both the rushing and receiving game in 2020, the Bears will have a tough decision to make next offseason.
It's hard imagining a scenario where Cohen becomes the highest-paid running back on the roster. This is likely his last year in the Windy City.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/TE/KR
Patterson had a successful first season with the Bears in 2019 as a return specialist and was one of the NFL's top players in that role. But he did little as a receiver (and runner) on offense to suggest he has a long-term future with the Bears. Is it possible he becomes a real factor on offense and forces Chicago to give him a second multi-year deal? Sure, it's possible. But it isn't probable.
Kevin Toliver, CB
This one's dicey. The Bears spent a second-round pick on cornerback Jaylon Johnson, so the expectation is that he'll eventually be the starter alongside Kyle Fuller. But if Toliver holds off the rookie for the starting gig in 2020, and plays well with the first-teamers? He'll be in line for a massive second-contract. Pace has to keep some cash in the reserves in case this scenario plays out.
Rashaad Coward, OL
Coward has already lost his starting job to free-agent signee, Germain Ifedi, but that doesn't mean he won't prove valuable enough to be re-signed to a multi-year deal. Swing linemen (the top reserve off the bench) are critical gameday players, even if they never take a snap. Teams need a competent sixth lineman in case of injury. Coward is ideal for that role.
Roy Robertson-Harris, DL
Robertson-Harris has flashed high-end potential throughout his tenure with the Bears. The problem, however, is that he's been more potential than a sure-fire starter. His path to playing time remains somewhat cluttered with Bilal Nichols presenting as a more appealing option alongside Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, but as has been the case with RRH throughout his time in Chicago, he'll get his shot. We'll see if he makes the most of it.
Eddy Pineiro, K
The last thing the Bears want is to enter the 2021 offseason with question marks at kicker. That's why it's critical for Pineiro to establish himself as the long-term answer for Chicago and earn himself a market-value multi-year deal. You can bet Pace will give him one if he earns it; he doesn't want to go through another kickerpalooza.
Mitch Trubisky, QB
And finally, we've arrived at Trubisky, a player who will either be the Bears' most important free agent or the one they'll be happy to let leave town. There won't be a middle ground with the former second overall pick. If he starts and plays well for Chicago in 2020, he's going to get paid (handsomely). If, however, he's left holding the clipboard while Nick Foles runs the offense? He'll go down as the biggest draft bust in Bears history. Here's to hoping Mitch makes his money through a lot of wins and a deep playoff run in January.