This was the last meaningful thing Allen Robinson said about where contract negotiations stand with the Bears:
"They haven't [reached out]. We haven't heard nothing,” he told ESPN 1000 on July 15th. “As far as me and my agent, from the conversations that we've had, we're not necessarily anticipating hearing anything at this point. For us, we're going into camp preparing ourselves to have a good year. If that comes up and they reach out to my agent, I'm sure they'll have pretty good discussions and things like that, but again, that hasn't happened yet. Maybe it will happen. I can't predict the future, so I don't know if that will happen at all. For myself, with this being my second time going into a contract year, I know how to mentally prepare myself and I know how to block all that out."
This is, of course, posturing; elite players publicly holding management’s feet to the fire at the start of a walk year is nothing new in the NFL. He turned 27 yesterday and this will already be Robinson’s third contract – he knows what he’s doing. Drumming up a few panicky headlines about his impending free agency serves him well, especially during a window when there’s not much NFL news to compete with.
A lot can change in six weeks. Ryan Pace’s Labor Day Special is well-documented (I’m sure everyone on the Bears staff is thrilled with his growing reputation for Putting In That Work over the last weekend of Summer) and remains, at this point, the most likely outcome in regards to Robinson’s future. But the lack of conversation – if that’s truly the case – opens a door to legitimizing one of the darkest concerns Bears fans actively avoid asking themselves: is anyone sure Allen Robinson should, or even wants to, re-sign in Chicago?
As far as what he wants, there are plenty of talking heads far more equipped, and well-sourced, for that speculation; the sheet of paper that hangs above my desk at Halas Hall has read ‘GUEST’ for two years. For what it’s worth, back in April, Robinson said that he “loved the city of Chicago” and “wanted to retire a Bear.” And maybe he does! There are worse cities to be young and rich in. Lake Forest is a nice, quiet place to work, and Halas Hall is immaculate. The team isn’t afraid to spend money when it needs to, and they seem to be actively involved with supporting his Within Reach foundation. Being a high-profile employee of the Chicago Bears during the Ryan Pace/Matt Nagy era seems to check a lot of life’s boxes.
But *should* Robinson re-sign in Chicago? This will be a team that has some combo of Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles/a current 17-year old at quarterback for the foreseeable future. (Ask yourself: do you trust Ryan Pace to draft another QB?) Other guys Robinson’s dragged along include Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, and Byran Walters. Throw in his time at Penn State catching balls from Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden, and Christian Hackenberg and you really get sense of why Robinson should just be fast-tracked to Canton right now. You can imagine how choosing a QB that can, like, win football games might sound awfully tempting as he approaches his 30s.
Another complicated wrinkle: he’s set to become a free agent – and one of top 2-3 at his position – during a year of immense financial uncertainty. Teams are being coy about what they expect from the salary cap next year (aside from the $175 million floor), but take exactly four seconds to think about the current economy and you can probably put together an educated guess. On the surface, the smart play is Robinson gobbling up whatever extension he can agree to with the Bears and not worrying about macroeconomics ever again. But here’s the creme de la creme of next year’s free agent receiver class:
- AJ Green
- TY Hilton
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Marvin Jones
- Cooper Kupp
- Will Fuller
- Chirs Goodwin
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Keenan Allen
There aren’t too many guys on that list that’ll get more money than Robinson. Goodwin is going to get paid, and there’s an argument for Allen to be made, though he’s a year older than ARob. Point is, there’s money out there. As cap wizard Namita Nandakumar once tweeted, the “salary cap is just an accounting minigame you can opt out of. It's like pretending to be broke in the Sims before using the motherlode cheat code and restructuring.”
A healthy Robinson is set to get his second huge contract sometime between now and next spring. That’s not up for debate. Maybe in a week, all 900 of these words are rendered totally useless and he goes on to set team records across the board. But right now, it’d be impossible to blame him if he thought the grass looked a lot greener in another stadium.