Ryan Pace doesn’t necessarily have a wide receiver problem, but he definitely has a dilemma.
It’s one thing to be an excellent talent evaluator, but it’s a whole other issue being able to identify the best talent and best fits for your schemes, depth chart, locker room and salary cap.
Allen Robinson is a No. 1 receiver who won’t turn 28 until August. Other than the 2017 season lost to a torn ACL, he’s been very durable and it’s reasonable to assume he can stay in his prime at least four or five more seasons.
Based on today’s contracts for the top six-to-eight receivers, where Robinson seems to fit, he should get a four- or five-year deal averaging about $19 million a year with between $35 million and $40 million guaranteed.
With both sides claiming they’d love to stay married, either the Bears are low-balling him or Robinson is kidding himself about what he’s worth.
Robinson is perfect for the schemes, depth chart and locker room, but can the Bears – already over-extended on defense relative to the cap, and with greater needs on offense at tackle and quarterback – afford to give A-Rob that deal?
If they make a deal, with what we saw from Darnell Mooney last year, all the Bears need at receiver is depth. Day 2 of the draft is in play, but receiver is not something they’d use a first-round pick on.
If they don’t see a long-term deal for Robinson, then they need a No. 1 – Mooney looks like a he could be an excellent No. 2 – and the first-round pick has to be in play.
Anthony Miller has shown flashes of being a No. 2, but most of the time he’s been a puzzle.
Riley Ridley was also seen as a potential No. 2 or at least a solid third receiver coming out of college. On the rare occasions he’s been on the field, he’s made some plays, but most of the time he can’t get on the field. It’s not clear why.
If both arrive this year the Bears have no “real need” at receiver.
And there is still one more significant issue to consider.
The most productive receivers in the league the last three or four years besides Robinson include DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Michael Evans, Davante Adams, DeVante Parker and newer arrivals Kenny Golladay, D.K. Metcalf and Justin Jefferson.
All but Hill, Hopkins, Adams and Jefferson are at least 6-3 or taller and 215 or bigger, and all those “little guys” minus Hill are 6-1 and in the 210-215 range.
At 5-10, 185 Hill is literally the only NFL “little guy” consistently dominating at wide receiver.
For all that we’re hearing about this year’s draft crop of receivers being the best ever, by today’s NFL standards they are almost all “little guys.”
The big three include Ja’Marr Chase (6-0, 201), Devonta Smith (6-0, 170) and Jaylen Waddle (5-10, 180.)
The next group includes Elijah Moore (5-10, 178), Kadarius Toney (6-0, 193), Tylan Wallace (5-11, 194) Rashod Bateman (6-0, 190) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (6-3 205.)
To be clear, these kids are all potential home-run hitters and a few are likely to be stars; however, none but Marshall Jr. fit the mold of today’s No. 1 NFL receiver, and 20th in the first round feels way too high for him.
Of course, No. 2 receivers are critical and this could be a class full of the best No. 2 receivers ever, but if the Bears are looking to replace Robinson this may not be the draft to do it.
Among the top 20 wideouts on my draft board, only Marshall, Jr., Michigan’s Nico Collins and Florida St.’s Tamorrion Terry over 6 feet tall and fit the A-Rob, Jones, Thomas, Metcalf mold at 6-3, 215 or bigger. All should be Day 2 prospects and could even slip to the third round.
It sure feels like getting a long-term Robinson deal done and mining the middle rounds for depth is the Bears best answer at wide receiver, but leaving the next Tyreek Hill on the board at 20 could also be a tough pill to swallow.
So what exactly is a G.M. on the hot seat to do?