The start of NFL free agency is still nearly a month away, and the market has already changed considerably from where it was when the regular season ended. The Commanders are expected to franchise tag Daron Payne, meaning the Bears won’t have a chance to sign him. The Titans released Taylor Lewan and Robert Woods, adding a new left tackle and wide receiver to the mix. Around this time of year, it’s a good rule of thumb to expect the unexpected. Accordingly, Bears fans have wondered if Keenan Allen could become available, since the Chargers will need to cut down on some salaries to get under the cap.
Spotrac projects the Chargers to be ~$20 million over the cap, and Allen is one of their highest paid players with a $21.7 million cap hit in 2023. If the Chargers designated Allen as a post-June 1 cut, they could save $17.5 million, per Spotrac. Of course, the Chargers wouldn’t need to do something that drastic to make the money work. GMs move money around all the time with reworked contracts and void years, and Chargers GM Tom Telesco can certainly do that with any number of players to avoid cutting a player of Allen’s caliber. Telesco could also cut a handful of lesser players to make up a similar amount of money.
Point is, Allen hitting the market is far from a sure thing.
But let’s pretend the Chargers do let Allen go. Could he be the guy the Bears have been looking for? Absolutely, yes.
Let’s start with the basics. Allen is listed at 6’2”, 211 pounds. He’s caught 796 passes for 9,287 yards and 52 touchdowns since 2013 and made five-straight Pro Bowls from 2017-2021. His 2022 campaign was limited to really only seven full games due to a nagging hamstring injury, but when he was healthy towards the end of the year, Allen was still dominant. From Week 12 - Week 18, he averaged 7.9 catches and 83 yards per game. He caught four touchdowns over those seven games. Average that over a full season and it equals an incredible 134-1,411-10 campaign.
Allen is still regarded as one of the best route runners in the game, and a premiere slot receiver where he played 59.5% of his snaps last season. Some like to view their No. 1 wideout as an outside threat, but for the Bears it doesn’t matter. With Chase Claypool locked in out wide, the Bears are open to putting another top-shelf receiver elsewhere. That can be on the other side of the field, or in the slot where Allen thrives.
Some who don’t believe Allen could be the guy in Chicago give him an “injury prone” label, due to his recurring hamstring issue last season and several injuries that sidelined him for a couple of seasons early in his career. That’s a lazy excuse, however. There should be no questions about Allen’s durability, considering he only missed three games over his Pro Bowl stretch from 2017-2021. Others will point to Allen’s age as a reason to stay away, since he’ll turn 31 this year. But it’s not like Allen relies on blazing speed to create separationー something that fades quickly with age. Allen is a technician, and other receivers who are phenomenal route runners in his age range have maintained their dominance. Think Davante Adams (31 in December), Cooper Kupp (30 in June) and Stefon Diggs (30 in November).
Again, there’s no guarantee Allen hits the market this year. But if he does, the Bears should strongly consider signing him.