Bears Free Agent WR Decision: Landry's Slot Excellence vs. Robinson's Deep-Ball Skills

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Bears Free Agent WR Decision: Landry’s Slot Excellence vs. Robinson’s Deep-Ball Skills

Chicago Bears

Free agency is risky, but when used properly, it can help add the right pieces to a team’s core.

The Bears’ free agent misses have been quite notable in the recent past, but, fortunately, haven’t been damaging to the team’s cap situation thus far. That leaves GM Ryan Pace in a position to attack the open market aggressively to fill some pretty big needs at several important positions, including wide receiver, which we explored more broadly earlier today.

With that in mind, Pro Football Focus has some pretty telling stats on their top-15 impending free agents. Near the top of PFF’s list of free agents are a pair of receivers already on the Bears’ radar in Jacksvonille’s Allen Robinson and Miami’s Jarvis Landry. We should be careful not to lump these two together just because they play the same position, because each has been asked to do very different things for their respective offenses.

And as fate would have it, both would fill roles the Bears currently have holes.

Robinson played just three snaps in 2017, but when healthy, his proficiency in hauling in the deep ball is among the best in football. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson gained 672 yards on deep passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield in 2015. That stands as the most deep-ball yardage recorded on PFF’s record. Trubisky didn’t have a receiver on the outside who loomed nearly as large as a vertical threat, yet made the most of his skill set and graded out with the fourth best deep-throw rating (108.1) while simultaneously limiting his turnover worthy throws (3.1%). It’s not hard to imagine Trubisky improving on both of those numbers if the Bears added a capable deep threat for him to target in 2018.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

While PFF’s stats suggest Trubisky excelled throwing deep, he could have done better throwing short and intermediate passes. This is where a player such as Landry would make for the perfect addition to the Bears’ offense. When it comes to slot play, no receiver was targeted more (156), hauled in more receiving yards (986), and only two players averaged more yards per route run.

While trends suggest three-receiver sets are still on the rise, the Bears’ most productive slot receiver (Kendall Wright) was on the field for just 58.7 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps and 75.7 percent of passing plays. Unlike Wright, who was used sporadically in the Bears’ offensive scheme, Landry was in on 89.6 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and 94.6 percent of passing plays.

And despite his size, Landry (listed as 5-11, 208 pounds in PFF’s free agency guide) also proved to be an effective red zone target. Landry’s quarterbacks have posted a 124.1 passer rating when throwing to him in the red zone in the last two seasons, which is the second best among receivers with 25 red zone targets in the last two seasons. Slot efficiency and red zone proficiency will get Landry a sizeable contract this offseason.

The Bears are expected to have a ton of cap space and flexibility, especially after they clear additional space with some winter cuts. HOWEVER, other teams with needs at receiver have cap space and flexibility, too. In a dream scenario, the Bears would add both Robinson and Landry, but it’s possible neither hits the market because both are eligible to be given the franchise tag by their respective teams. If either hits the market, the Bears could dip into free agency and sign a Week 1 starter who has upside and fills a need. It would be the first step toward a successful journey through what is expected to be a highly competitive free agent market.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.