7 predictions on the Chicago Bears and free agency

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Alyssa Barbieri
·7 min read
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We’re less than two weeks from the start of free agency, and the Chicago Bears have been pretty quiet ahead of the new league year. Chicago has 30 players that are free agents this offseason, and aside from re-signing some exclusive rights free agents, they haven’t made any other moves to bring back some key pieces.

With the salary cap set to challenge general manager Ryan Pace, there are certainly plenty of moves to expect to see over the next couple of weeks. Chicago already released cornerback Buster Skrine to save $2.7 million in cap space, and there should be plenty more cuts and even contract restructures along the way.

Here are seven predictions for the Bears heading into free agency, including expected cuts and re-signings, as well as a predictable move with receiver Allen Robinson.

WR Allen Robinson gets the franchise tag

AP Photo/Jim Mone

The biggest decision the Bears have to make heading into free agency regards the future of their best offensive player in receiver Allen Robinson, who they let make it this close to the free-agent market. Robinson has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in some putrid offenses, and he's proven to be one of the league's best receivers during that span. And yet, he remains unsigned by Chicago. Robinson and the Bears haven't had contract discussions since last September, when Robinson publicly aired his frustrations with contract negotiations. The biggest point of contention between the two sides is the money. While it appeared that Chicago wasn't making it a priority to sign Robinson to a long-term extension, general manager Ryan Pace made it clear that they want Robinson to remain a Bear. With salary cap restraints, it's most likely that Chicago slaps Robinson with the franchise tag ahead of the March 9 deadline.

DE Roy Robertson-Harris leaves in free agency

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Roy Robertson-Harris has been one of the many success stories on Chicago's defensive line. He's been an integral part of what the Bears do up front. While Robertson-Harris missed the final seven games of the 2020 regular season, he's been a dependable asset to this defensive line and someone Chicago would love to keep around. But Robertson-Harris already alluded to the fact that he doesn't expect to be back in Chicago next season. And it's not because of a lack of talent. The Bears do have several other reserves on the defensive line that are set to hit the free-agent market, including Brent Urban and Mario Edwards, and it seems like they'd be more in Chicago's price range following solid campaigns in 2020. Unfortunately for the Bears, it doesn't sound like they'll be able to retain him with a decreasing salary cap and an abundance of other needs.

Bears cut TE Jimmy Graham

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Jimmy Graham proved to be one of the more pleasant surprises for the Bears last season. Following an atrocious performance by tight ends the year before, Graham and rookie Cole Kmet reminded us what tight ends can do in this offense. Graham himself had eight touchdowns, surpassing his two-year total in Green Bay in just one season. While the Graham signing was originally met with criticism, he ended up being a valuable threat in the red zone on offense for the Bears. But even despite his performance, he's a prime candidate to be a cap casualty given his cap hit of $10 million in 2021. Considering Chicago has plenty of roster spots to fill and not a whole lot of cap space to do it, keeping Graham doesn't make a lot of sense financially. They'd save $7 million in cap space by parting ways, which should be expected at this point.

Bears cut RT Bobby Massie

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

When it comes to the offensive line, there is certainly reason to be optimistic given the interior linemen. But the issue remains the tackles, including right tackle Bobby Massie, who missed half of the season with a knee injury. Before that, he wasn't impressing or living up to his contract extension, which should make this decision an easy one. Massie is projected to have a cap hit of $9.3 million next season, and the Bears can save $5.4 million by parting ways with him. Germain Ifedi, who was originally signed to a one-year deal, took over for Massie at right tackle, and he'd be a much more affordable veteran option. Or Chicago will likely target a rookie to replace Massie or his partner on the other side.

Bears let Cordarrelle Patterson walk

AP Photo/David Berding

In two seasons with the Bears, Cordarrelle Patterson has done it all. He's been the league's best kick returner -- a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler -- and served a role on offense at wide receiver and even running back. His greatest contribution comes on special teams, not only as a kick returner but as a gunner. Behind Robinson, he's Chicago's most dangerous weapon considering he can do it at multiple positions. Patterson has been an integral part to this Bears team, and you figure there would be an effort to re-sign him. But the salary cap situation makes things more challenging, especially as Patterson was the league's highest-paid kick returner at $5 million last season. If Chicago could sign Patterson to a team-friendly deal they could surely keep him around. But it's hard to see that happening right now.

QB Mitchell Trubisky signs elsewhere

AP Photo/Brett Duke

While Pace has made it clear that "everything is on the table" at the quarterback position -- including a potential Mitchell Trubisky return -- it's clear that Trubisky won't be returning with the team in 2021. And that's what's really best for both sides. Trubisky needs a change of scenery with a new coaching staff, and the Bears need to make a splash at quarterback in order for Pace and Matt Nagy to save their jobs. The Bears have just one quarterback on the roster heading into 2021 -- with Nick Foles -- and they've been quite active so far in the quarterback market this offseason. With Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson rumors swirling involving Chicago, you have to figure they're going to go all in. But with the 20th overall pick and a limited free agent market, the Bears are running out of options at quarterback -- and some have argued that Trubisky could be the best option if things don't work out. But that would assume Chicago gets that desperate and Trubisky wants to return.

Chicago brings back trio of special teamers

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Bears don't have any of their special teamers under contract heading into 2021 with kicker Cairo Santos, punter Pat O'Donnell and long snapper Patrick Scales all free agents. The most obvious course of action would be to return the trio, who Chicago could sign at team-friendly deals. But perhaps the biggest concern for special teams this offseason is bringing back Santos, who provided the first real stability at the kicker position since Robbie Gould four years before him. Santos was one of the best kickers in the NFC, where he connected on 30-of-32 field goals (93.75%) and broke Chicago's franchise record for consecutive made field goals with 27, eclipsing Robbie Gould's record of 26 and exorcising the team's kicker demons. With Santos set to hit the open market, the Bears need to lock up Santos and focus on the bigger issues on the roster.

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