Allen Robinson

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.

Bears’ Allen Robinson Won’t Go On PUP

New Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson has not participated in most of the team’s offseason program as a result of last year’s torn ACL. However, coach Matt Nagy says he’ll be ready to roll as the team reconvenes and will not open camp on the PUP list (Twitter link via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune). 

The Bears signed Robinson to a $14MM/year contract this offseason and they are banking on him becoming their top offensive target this year. Robinson’s 2017 was a lost cause, but the Bears believe that he can get back to his 2015 form, a season in which he had 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even as he regressed in 2016, Robinson still finished out with 73 grabs for 883 yards and six TDs, so his floor is fairly high, provided that he can stay healthy.

Nagy also indicated that offensive lineman Kyle Long will be cleared for camp. Long missed a significant portion of last season and underwent shoulder, elbow, and neck procedures, but it sounds like he’s on track to play in Week 1.

The Bears went 5-11 last year and finished with the worst record in the NFC North. After retooling their offense and using a top ten pick on linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bears are feeling optimistic about their chances in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Rumors: Daniels, Robinson, Helfrich

Looking to sport at least two Day 1 starters from this 2018 draft class, the Bears also believe they acquired two first-round-caliber talents in April. Chicago brass placed a Round 1 grade on Iowa center James Daniels, whom the Bears selected at No. 39 overall.

We had him as a first-round player,” Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas said during an episode of Meet the Rookies (via Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago). “You never know. Every team’s going to have different flavors with interior linemen. It’s just one of those things that you hope he’s there. But based on our grades, based on where we saw the top 32 players in the draft, we definitely weren’t anticipating him being there.”

The Warren, Ohio, native served as the Hawkeyes’ starting center for the past two seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior year. However, the Bears plan to use him at left guard to replace Josh Sitton, per Perez. Cody Whitehair will make the transition back to center full-time. He served as Chicago’s snapper in 16 games as a rookie in 2016 but saw action at both center and guard in 2017.

Here’s the latest from the Windy City:

  • In recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season and his time with the Jaguars, Allen Robinson did not take part in most of the Bears’ offseason work. However, the former Pro Bowl target is expected to be full go by the time the Bears convene for camp July 19, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com reports. Robinson will be playing on a $14MM-per-year contract and will be essential to Chicago’s passing attack from Day 1, provided he can shake off the knee injury.
  • On the subject of Bears receivers, Taylor Gabriel, not Robinson, will be slotted at the position that Tyreek Hill plays in this scheme, Perez notes. Although Robinson delivered dominant work on deep balls with Blake Bortles in a breakout 2015 season, Gabriel profiles as the player who more closely resembles Hill on this new-look receiving corps. He’s twice averaged more than 16 yards per reception in a four-year career.
  • Chicago’s new offense won’t just be an NFC version of Andy Reid‘s. While Chiefs viewers who find their way to Bears games on Sundays will see familiar concepts, Matt Nagy‘s attack will also contain elements from OC Mark Helfrich‘s former Oregon offenses, Mitch Trubisky said (via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, on Twitter). The 2017 No. 2 overall pick said the Bears’ new offense is more complex than he’s accustomed to, so it will be interesting to see how the North Carolina product looks with a mostly new cast of pass-catchers. With the Chiefs using plenty of college concepts in recent years, and the Bears hiring a former college HC, Trubisky could be piloting one of the more unique offenses in the NFL this season.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Lions, Vikings

Allen Robinson narrowed his potential destinations to the Bears and Packers before ultimately deciding on Chicago, as the star wideout tells Mike Kaye of First Coast News. While a number of clubs — including the Redskins, Browns, Ravens, Panthers, and incumbent Jaguars — were linked to Robinson before free agency officially opened, Green Bay was never mentioned as a suitor. The revelation is interesting on a few different levels, but chief among them is that the Packers clearly feel a need to upgrade their receiving corps. So far this offseason, Green Bay cut ties with franchise icon Jordy Nelson, but hasn’t made any additions to its wideout depth chart. Robinson, 24, eventually landed a three-year, $42MM deal from the Bears.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Lions‘ decision to release Eric Ebron was strictly a financial call, general manager Bob Quinn told reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Ebron had been scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.25MM in 2018, and that figure would have become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year. Indeed, Ebron’s high salary also warded off any potential trade suitors, per Quinn, while Detroit never discussed an extension that would have reduced Ebron’s upcoming cap charge (Twitter link via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News). Ebron, a first-round pick in 2014, has subsequently inked a two-year, $13MM pact with the Colts.
  • Given that he’s currently in Ghana, Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has no immediate plans to sign his franchise tag, per Birkett (Twitter link). However, Ansah does eventually plan to ink the tender and has no intention of dragging out the process. When he does eventually sign, Ansah will earn a fully guaranteed $17.143MM base salary for the 2018 campaign, and will have until July to hammer out a long-term extension with Detroit. Ansah finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks, 44 total tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
  • The Vikings have indicated they’d like to re-sign cornerback Terence Newman, but it sound as though money will be the determining factor in any such agreement, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). While Newman will be 40 years old when the 2018 season gets underway, he was able to stay healthy for all 16 games last year. Newman, who ranked as the No. 66 CB among 119 qualifiers in 2017 (per Pro Football Focus), would reinforce a Minnesota secondary that also includes Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander.
  • Despite a previous report to the contrary, the Lions are not interested in free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, tweets Birkett. Detroit has already upgraded its defensive tackle rotation by signing Sylvester Williams and Ricky Jean-Francois, but Hankins isn’t in the team’s plans.

Contract Details/Restructures: 3/17/18

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts and restructures around the NFL:

New Contracts

  • Allen Robinson, WR (Bears): Three years, $42MM. $25.2MM guaranteed. $6MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Jets): One year, $6MM. $1MM guaranteed. $9MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com).
  • Chad Henne, QB (Chiefs): Two years, $6.7MM. $3.1MM signing bonus. Performance incentives and escalators available (Twitter link via Jason Wolf of the Tennessean).

Restructures

  • Cardinals: Created $500K in 2018 cap space by converting S Antoine Bethea‘s roster bouns into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Vikings: Created $1.15MM in 2018 cap space by reducing RB Latavius Murray‘s base salary from $5.15MM to $3.65M; his roster bonus from $500K to $250K; and his incentives from $2.3MM to $1MM (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).

Bears Sign Allen Robinson

Early Tuesday morning, the Bears and wide receiver Allen Robinson agreed to a three-year, $42MM deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal was made official Wednesday night. Robinson was arguably this year’s top available wide receiver, edging Sammy Watkins.

The Bears lost a major target last offseason when Alshon Jeffery left in free agency to sign with the Eagles. Now, he provided young quarterback Mitch Trubisky with a true high-end option.

Robinson had spent his entire career with the Jaguars until today. After a breakout 2015 campaign that saw him haul in 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, Robinson took a step back in 2016 with “only” 73 catches for 883 yards and six scores. Then, he tore his ACL during his team’s Week 1 contest against the Texans last season. Robinson believes he’ll be back at full strength this year and if that’s the case, he’ll be terrorizing the NFC North.

Despite suffering a serious knee injury, Robinson was still able to garner $14MM annually, a figure which will place him inside the top-10 among wide receiver contracts. While it remains to be seen how Robinson’s new deal is structured — it’s possible the Bears can escape the pact after a year, depending on how bonuses are allocated — the 24-year-old was able to cash in even with a injury on his ledger.

Chicago, for its part, was in desperate need of wide receiver additions. Both Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright are unrestricted free agents, while Cameron Meredith and Josh Bellamy are restricted free agents. The Bears used original round tenders on both Meredith and Bellamy, meaning other clubs can potentially poach them without compensation heading to Chicago. Meanwhile, former first-round pick Kevin White has struggled to stay healthy during his NFL tenure and is currently recovering from injury.

The Jaguars reportedly considered deploying the franchise tag on Robinson, which would have parked him in Jacksonville at a one-year cost of roughly $16MM. Instead, the Jags let Robinson hit the open market, and now boast a wide receiver corps topped by Allen Hurns (who is a candidate for release), Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook. Fellow pass-catcher Marqise Lee is also an unrestricted free agent.

[RELATED: Bears Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Allen Robinson Confident He’ll Receive Multi-Year Deal

Despite missing the majority of the 2017 campaign due to injury, wideout Allen Robinson still believes he’ll get paid this offseason. Appearing on Mad Dog Sports Radio today, Robinson told the hosts that he doesn’t believe his ACL injury will keep him from earning a multi-year deal (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com).

Of course, it was likely that same ACL tear that kept the Jaguars from placing the franchise tag on the wideout. As Alper points out, some around the league were wondering if Robinson would have to settle for a one-year deal in order to reestablish his value in time for 2019 free agency. However, the wideout said conversations with his agent have led him to believe that he’ll definitely “get a multi-year deal done.”

While the wideout didn’t definitively name any landing spots, Alper points out that Robinson “reacted positively” when asked about the direction of the Bears and 49ers. The receiver also noted that he could end up back in Jacksonville.

The 2014 second-round pick has spent his entire career with the Jaguars, earning himself a Pro Bowl birth. Following a breakout 2015 campaign that saw him haul in 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, Robinson appeared to take a step back in 2016. The receiver finished that campaign with “only” 73 catches for 883 yards and six scores. He tore his ACL during his team’s Week 1 contest against the Texans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Allen Robinson’s Market

PFR’s No. 1 wide receiver available, Allen Robinson will be set to see a bevy of offers once the tampering window opens on Monday.

While Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports the Jaguars would love to retain the wideout they didn’t opt to use the franchise tag on, they will have immense competition. The Browns and Bears may be the two most aggressive pursuers, per La Canfora, but the Ravens and Panthers are also in the mix for the fifth-year receiver.

The Ravens missed out on a Jarvis Landry trade and may be set to revamp their receiving corps. The Panthers just traded for Torrey Smith. Neither of these teams can compete with the Bears or Browns in terms of cap space, with the Panthers sitting at less than $25MM and the Ravens at barely $4MM. JLC describes Baltimore and Carolina as expressing interest but maybe not on the level of Cleveland and Chicago’s.

Cleveland did add Landry and has outside receivers in Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman. However, neither of those players were acquired by this regime and, with Gordon’s rampant off-field issues and Coleman’s injury struggles, it’s possible the front office wants more help in addition to Landry. The Bears have a bigger need at wideout after its previous corps struggled with injuries and production. The Browns hold more than $82MM in cap space, and the Bears are sitting on just more than $50MM.

Robinson doesn’t have the cleanest track record as far as staying on the field, but his dominant 2015 season (14 touchdowns, 1,400 air yards) understandably would have teams teeming with interest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Receiver Notes: Landry, Dez, A-Rob, Evans

No players have dominated the news more in the last two days than Jarvis Landry and Richard Sherman. On Friday, the Browns kicked off their trading spree by landing the Dolphins wideout in a deal for draft picks. Earlier in the day, Sherman was released from the Seahawks and then signed with the division-rival 49ers Saturday Night.

The two possibly could have been connected on the transaction wire earlier in the 2017 season if a blockbuster deal would have gone through. That’s according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who tweets that Seattle rejected a potential Landry-for-Sherman swap in 2017.

At the time of the proposed deal, presumably before the trade deadline, Sherman was healthy and the Seahawks were looking to advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive. Trading away a key member of the secondary and an influential figure in the locker room doesn’t appear to make much sense.

Regardless, it is interesting both teams were looking to move on from their respective stars as early as October.

Here’s more receivers making news:

  • Before both of those deals went down, Mike Evans grabbed headlines by signing a five-year deal with the Buccaneers worth $82.5 MM. Breaking down the details, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry tweets the Bucs will $5 MM of salary cap space in 2018 and he now takes up $18.25 MM of cap room.
  • During a chat with the Dallas Morning News on Friday, Matt Mosley said his gut feeling is that Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant will be back in 2018. He said that could change if the team lands a receiver in the first round. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, among others, could be on the board when the Cowboys pick at No. 19.
  • Though they didn’t place the franchise tag on him, the Jaguars do in fact like Allen Robinson and would like to have him back at the right price, general manager Dave Caldwell told Pro Football Talk. “At some point in time, just like other free agents, we’ve walked away. We don’t want to do that with Allen because he’s ours. We’ll see. We have a lot of options on the table with that.”