March 03, 2021

2021 Bears position needs: Free agent and draft options at wide receiver

The Bears’ wide receiver position had the potential throughout the 2020 season to be a real strength for several years to come, but the team’s inability or unwillingness to strike a new deal with Allen Robinson now makes it potentially one of the team’s greatest areas of need.

Discovering Darnell Mooney last season was akin to winning the lottery, while watching Anthony Miller tread water a good part of the year was beyond frustrating.

Riley Ridley looks the part of at least an NFL No. 3 on the rare occasions he gets on the field, but for whatever reason(s), he’s earned a jersey on game day for only 10 of the 33 games he’s been a Bear.

Who is on the roster in 2021?

This is a really great question.

Mooney is the only receiver on the roster right now guaranteed to be back this year.

Miller was ejected during the NFC wild-card game against the Saints, which has led to some speculation about his future. Much the same can be said about Javon Wims, who was ejected against the Saints during the regular season. Miller, however, is a former second-round pick.

Miller, Ridley, Wims, Rodney Adams, Jester Weah and Thomas Ives also are under contract, but Miller and Ridley are the only two certain to have NFL futures, Wims still has a shot, the rest are basically practice squad guys and none are certain to be with the Bears in Week 1.

Who are the pending free agents?

Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Reggie Davis, along with Dwayne Harris and DeAndre Carter, who were brought in principally for punt return duties after Tarik Cohen was injured and Ted Ginn proved he was done, will be free agents.

Thoughts on the internal options in 2021?

Mooney will be even better in 2021, but his ceiling appears to be as a No. 2 receiver. With a true No. 1 across from him, he can be a special weapon.

Although the conventional wisdom is that Miller will be gone, I don’t see how the Bears can move on from another player with a high No. 2 ceiling who cost them second- and fourth-round picks to draft if Mooney is the only legit NFL receiver on the roster.

If the Bears do re-sign or tag Robinson and draft another receiver in a wideout-rich draft class, Miller could be axed because of his lack of maturity and focus.

I like Ridley, but it appears the Bears don’t, making him really difficult to project, and at this point, I’m not sure what would be the point of bringing Wims back.

Having a healthy Cohen lining up in the slot and re-signing Patterson creates nice depth but still leaves the team potentially without a No. 1 or No. 3 receiver.

Who is available in free agency?

Robinson is the best receiver available in free agency.

Chris Godwin and St. Rita product Kenny Golladay come with high upside. Will Fuller does as well, but he also brings a lengthy injury history. Those players, along with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis, Sammy Watkins and Curtis Samuel, are 27 or younger, as is Robinson. All will be slightly less, but not dramatically, cheaper than Robinson, and none are quite as good.

Older veterans A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Marvin Jones and Antonio Brown also will attract some interest.

Who is available in the draft?

Many are calling this the best wide receiver draft ever. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle will be long gone by the 20th pick in the first round.

Florida’s Kadarius Toney, Louisville’s Tutu Atwell and LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. could/will be available, but Toney is the only real value at No. 20.

Day 2 options include Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, Auburn’s Seth Williams, North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome, Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry, Michigan’s Nico Collins and Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt.

This class is loaded, and there will be future NFL starters available Day 3, too.

What’s your best guess?

We keep hearing general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy say they believe the Bears are close to contending, but that only holds if they find a way to retain Robinson and, with what he adds on special teams as well as depth, Patterson.

Keeping Robinson allows them to draft a tackle in the first round or trade the pick for a quarterback and still get better.

Although I’m in the minority, my gut tells me Miller will be back and, with Robinson and Mooney, could have his best year as a pro.

I’d expect the Bears to add at least one more receiver on Day 3 of the draft if Robinson is back, sooner if not, and if Cohen is healthy and Ridley gets a chance and proves me right, that should be enough with the right guy throwing them the football.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the director of football content for Shaw Media