You don’t need to be a grizzled NFL insider to realize the Chicago Bears need help at wide receiver, but you can call yourself a expert if you know where they can go to find it. Indeed, with each passing day, that free agent WR market looks less appetizing than we thought it would be and it’s only getting worse. Sigh.
Alshon Jeffery and Davante Adams re-signed with their respective teams before the season even ended, and the Miami Dolphins feel confident they’ll be able to retain Jarvis Landry (even if they’ll have to move some money around to make it happen).
And in case you were holding out hope that the Bears could always go after Sammy Watkins, well, I have some bad news: ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez reports that the Los Angeles Rams are expected to give wide receiver Sammy Watkins the franchise tag. We won’t know the official franchise tag numbers until later in the offseason, but last year’s receiver tag was $15.682 million.
Sammy Watkins was far from my No.1 choice for Chicago this winter, but he might’ve been the Bears best remaining option. So, like, yeah, that really stinks – at a minimum, more free agent options can help drive down the price of other free agents. So even if you were unconvinced of Watkins fit with the Bears, his presence on the market was inarguably a good thing.
Watkins caught just 39 passes and gained only 593 yards this season, but scored eight touchdowns and averaged 15.2 yards per catch. His numbers suggest there is still untapped upside to go along with reliable production and a budding rapport with quarterback Jared Goff. Since Watkins doesn’t turn 25 until June, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams bet on that upside with an extension (in fact, the Rams GM, Les Snead, might be using the franchise tag as a starting point for a long-term extension).
That would leave the Bears (and other teams looking for receiver help) looking at their fifth option once free agency starts. We discussed some of the top potential targets after Adams re-signed with the Packers, but that list featured both Landry and Watkins at the top.
So assuming they’re all off the board, where does that leave us?
Allen Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, and Paul Richardson could conceivably hit the free agent market as the top players at the position. Robinson is coming off a season-ending ACL tear playing in Jacksonvile, while Pryor performed poorly even before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Washington. Richardson could be a diamond-in-the-rough type after setting new career bests in catches (44), receiving yards (703), and touchdown catches (6).
We’re months away from free agency, but at this rate, the likelihood of the Bears’ best option at improving their receiver corps will be through the draft. Did I mention that Alabama WR Calvin Ridley has officially declared?
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.