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The Bears Need a New Slot Receiver and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Bears News, Chicago Bears Rumors

The offseason additions of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel raised the talent level of the Chicago Bears’ wide receivers group, and Cameron Meredith was set to be the beneficiary.

Back in July 2017, analysis from Dan Durkin of The Athletic suggested Meredith could have emerged as the Bears’ top option at slot receiver. When Meredith had his breakout season in 2016, he spent most of his time in the slot. Durkin noted that 58 percent of Meredith’s catches and 59 percent of his receiving yards came when he was lined up in the slot on the left side of the field. Meredith could have been slotted there once again, but with more talented receivers around him this time around.

Despite what you might think, Gabriel isn’t a slot receiver. Gabriel is the Zebra receiver, a role that Tyreek Hill had in Kansas City. This is where it’s worth noting only 22.4 percent of Hill’s snap share came out of the slot last season. It was considerably less (7.4 percent) for Gabriel last season.

So just when you thought the void was filled, it opens up again. Go figure.

  • Meredith’s departure has big-time ramifications on several levels, according to JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago. Whether it’s injury related or the possibility Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich didn’t see Meredith as a fit on their offense (it’s not likely, but I suppose it’s a possibility until proven otherwise), the wide receiver position has moved up once again on the list of needs for the Bears. The move also brings Kevin White back into the spotlight. Nagy has expressed optimism about White’s future and would like to be the coach who puts the talented, but oft-injured receiver back on the path to success. He’ll have all the opportunity in the world to do so, provided he stays healthy enough to be on the field enough to make an impact.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune believes allowing Meredith to walk away without compensation was a mistake by GM Ryan Pace. That’s not quite how this works, but we can talk through it. The Bears could have virtually eliminated the possibility of Meredith receiving an offer sheet (or even an invitation for a visit from other teams) had the team ponied up with the second-round tender at $2.9 million. That tender offer would have resulted in a team giving up draft compensation if they were to sign Meredith to an offer sheet and the Bears were to decide not to match. Then again, the Saints wouldn’t have come calling for Meredith if that second-round tender designation had been made. Instead, we would be talking about Meredith playing on what amounts to a one-year “prove it” deal for $2.9 million.
  • HOWEVER, if the medicals come out and Meredith isn’t in a great place in his rehabilitation, how bad could this decision turn out to be? Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times seems to come to this conclusion. “The Bears clearly weren’t comfortable with Meredith’s recovering knee,” Finley writes. “If they were, they would have issued him a second-round tender as a restricted free agent last month.”
  • Unlike Allen Robinson, who has been openly and publicly optimistic in sharing his timetable, Meredith didn’t seem all that sure:

  • Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune has the perspective from the other side of the Meredith signing. Holder sees the Meredith signing as a gateway to more flexibility for the Saints come draft weekend. Meredith projects to be the Saints’ No. 3 receiver and top slot target, which is exactly where he would have been had the Bears signed him. His presence leaves New Orleans to explore other possibilities in the draft, rather than target an early round receiver. Meanwhile, the Bears are now in a position to use an early pick on a receiver after losing Meredith. Go figure. Time will tell how this turns out, but it appears as if Ryan Pace’s former boss has bested his former pupil.
  • Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune shared his position preview of the wide receivers who will be available in the upcoming NFL Draft. While this particular position doesn’t have a player who you’d probably feel comfortable taking with a top-10 pick, it’s a deep group with talent that can be molded into something special. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton at the top of the draft, so now presents a good opportunity to dive a little deeper.

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Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at The Ten-Yard Line, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.