The NFL’s trade deadline came and went without the Bears making a move.
So, for better or worse, the team we saw start 3-5 will be the one to take us home for the final nine games of this season. Part of me is surprised (if not disappointed) in Chicago’s lack of movement. Considering how every decision moving forward should be made with Justin Fields’ future in mind, there is a level of surprise that the Bears didn’t flip a player on an expiring deal into future draft capital.
Among the possible trade pieces that could’ve been sent out is Allen Robinson II. The talented receiver is off to a slow start and has yet to successfully build an on-field connection with the Bears’ budding quarterback. In an alternate universe, maybe that is reason enough to trade Robinson. But in the one we live in currently, it is more likely Chicago values Robinson as a reliable target who — despite slumping to start the year — can help Fields grow in the second half. Maybe that’s explanation enough for the lack of a trade.
However, there could be a bigger (and better?) reason as to why the deadline passed without the team moving Robinson.
“Robinson, who is playing on the Franchise Tag, was the most obvious trade candidate,” writes Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. And no arguments here in terms of Robinson being the most obvious trade candidate. “But the Bears were hard-pressed to land more than a third-round pick — which they believe they’ll receive in the compensatory round if Robinson leaves via free agency in March.”
A couple of worthwhile nuggets there. First, the implication is that whatever return was on the table in a hypothetical Robinson trade was not equal or greater to what the Bears would be getting if Robinson were to leave via free agency. If one views this situation through that lens, it’s easy to understand why Chicago would stand pat at the trade deadline. Dealing from a position of weakness and not getting full value in a trade is a bad way to go about doing business. Trading Robinson now for a third rounder, at best, might’ve wound up a wash on what they’d get anyway in free agency.
Of course, that Finley notes that the Bears think they’ll get a third-round compensatory pick suggests the team is already looking into the future – a future without Robinson. Because, to me, it sounds as if the Bears aren’t preparing to use the Franchise Tag on Robinson for a second consecutive year. If that had been the plan, they wouldn’t be weighing future pick capital by way of the compensatory pick formula against a trade return before the deadline.
All of this assumes, by the way, that the Bears not only let Robinson walk after the season, but that he signs a relatively substantial contract AND the Bears don’t muck up the compensatory pick situation with too many free agent signing cancellations. Just something to keep in mind when the offseason arrives.
For what it’s worth, Robinson still has nine games left with these Bears. And things could change between now and when offseason decisions must be made. It’s conceivable that Fields and Robinson hit it off down the stretch and it changes the equation. However, there is a growing reality that we’re prepping for Robinson’s final stretch run in Chicago — one way or another.