Bears decline to use franchise tag, paving way for Allen Robinson to test free agency

After 4 seasons, Robinson’s time in Chicago appears over

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) celebrates after making a catch against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas.

The Bears will not to use the franchise tag this season, which allows receiver Allen Robinson to test free agency later this month. The deadline to tag a player was 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The team tagged Robinson last year, keeping him under contract through 2021 after his initial three-year contract with the team expired a year ago. In tagging Robinson, the Bears were forced to pay him $17.8 million for a one-year franchise tag tender.

Teams can tag a player up to three times, but doing so comes with increased costs each time. If the Bears tagged Robinson a second time, they would have had to pay him 120% of his salary from last season – which would’ve equaled more than $21 million for 2022.

Instead, Robinson will hit free agency. When he reached the open market in 2018, the Bears offered him a three-year, $42 million contract. At the time, Robinson was coming off a 2017 season in which he missed nearly the entire season with a torn ACL.

New general manager Ryan Poles said at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine that the Bears remained open to repairing the relationship with Robinson.

“It’s communication, it’s establishing that things are going to be a little bit different,” Poles said. “That’s a tough one to answer specifically. It’s more of a fresh start for everyone. Through our moves and the staff we’ve put together, I think it shows that.”

For the first three years of his time in Chicago, Robinson was one of the most productive offensive weapons the Bears had. He led the team with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2019 and 2020. When head coach Matt Nagy’s offense sputtered, Robinson became former quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s No. 1 outlet.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) talks to wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago.

That all changed in 2021 after the team franchise tagged him. The Bears brought in two new quarterbacks in veteran Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields. The offense started off slow and simply never improved. Robinson caught just 38 passes for 410 yards and one touchdown. He missed five games due to a hamstring injury and a bout of COVID-19.

Robinson, who turns 29 in August, will be an interesting target to watch in free agency. He has a track record with multiple 1,000-yard seasons, but he is coming off a disappointing season.

Will a team be willing to pay upward of $20 million per year for a receiver coming off a subpar season? That will depend if Robinson and his agent can convince teams that his dip in production said more about the Bears than it did about Robinson.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.