Patience is hard to come by in 2020 and that especially applies to two persistent Chicago sports questions this summer.
Why haven’t the Bulls fired Jim Boylen?
And why haven’t the Bears extended Allen Robinson yet?
Friday morning, just minutes after Robinson downplayed his contract concerns for the 107th time this offseason, the Bulls finally fired Boylen.
All that angst over Arturas Karnisovas taking his time to evaluate the information available to him during a global pandemic… and he ended up firing the guy the morning after the regular season officially ended.
That stress from the Bulls fanbase seems pretty silly now, doesn’t it?
Take note, Bears fans.
Even taking the pandemic out of it, there’s little reason to be worried about a Robinson contract extension. Here are five dates in recent Chicago Bears history to remember:
Sept. 3, 2016
Aug. 23, 2017
Sept. 9, 2017
Sept. 7, 2018
Sept. 1, 2019
Those are the dates that general manager Ryan Pace handed out long-term contract extensions to Kyle Long, Charles Leno Jr., Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Cody Whitehair, respectively.
Technically you could also include the six-year extension Khalil Mack signed Sept. 1, 2018, although those were different circumstances following a trade.
The point is this: Pace has a track record of rewarding a valuable piece of the organization with a contract extension right before the regular season begins. And there are a couple reasons for the timing:
1. Why rush? There are many things that can happen in August, the most notable of which are injuries. The player you want to extend could get hurt. You may end up with other pressing needs. Khalil Mack could become available. And as 2020 has taught us, a global pandemic can strike at any time.
2. Players notice. Bears players are well aware of Pace’s track record of handing out early September prizes. So if you’re Anthony Miller, whose rookie deal expires after the 2021 season, why wait until your contract year to show you’re worthy of a big extension? If he breaks out in 2020, he could be the one getting a big deal this time next year.
All the more reason to extend Robinson before the Sept. 13 opener in Detroit. But at the same time, there’s no reason to rush it. Especially this year.
It’s mid-August and the Bears have yet to put on pads. No one really knows how players are going to react and perform over the next month. An entire offseason/preseason evaluation is getting truncated down to three weeks of practices. Injuries are a major concern. And at any given moment, a player could contract COVID-19 or decide the risk isn’t worth the reward.
Few players at Halas Hall are as valuable as Robinson is to the Bears. His production speaks for itself, but he’s also a true professional and an important leader in the locker room.
“He means a lot to this team,” Miller said Friday. “He's one of those leaders that we need on this team. He's not very vocal, but he does it a lot through his actions. And a lot of people pay attention to that and he leads by example. So he's a great guy to look up to.”
When the Bears signed Robinson in 2018, the three-year contract made sense for both sides because Robinson was coming off a torn ACL and it allowed the wide receiver to potentially hit free agency again at 27 years old. But both sides also hoped that it would be a partnership that went beyond three years. To this point, it’s been a perfect match (other than Robinson being six years into his career without steady quarterback play) and there have been no indications that either side wants the relationship to end.
“I’m not really too focused on that right now,” Robinson said Friday. “My main focus is on camp. We have a game in about a month. So not having OTAs, starting a little bit slower with training camp and stuff like that, my main focus is being ready for Week 1 and whatever happens with that happens.”
The overwhelming odds point to it happening, although nothing can be guaranteed in 2020. COVID-19 figures to wreak havoc on the 2021 offseason with the salary cap likely to drop and the NFL Draft potentially getting delayed. But that hasn’t stopped teams from handing out extensions to worthy veterans, with 49ers tight end George Kittle and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce being the latest recipients this week.
If you’re the Bears, it would be smart to lock up one of your most dependable assets before 2021. And if you’re Robinson, it’s probably smart to take that long-term security with an uncertain offseason looming.
And if you’re a fan just looking at Pace’s track record with early-September contract extension over the last five years, there’s really no reason to stress.