The two most enticing wide receivers on the free-agent market both reportedly agreed to deals as Monday night turned to Tuesday morning. Wide receiver Allen Robinson agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears for three years and up to $42 million, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson. Hours later, Sammy Watkins agreed to a three-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that could be worth up to $48 million, with $30 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Neither deal will become official until free agency begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
$ammy Watkins Cashes In
The Rams gambled on Watkins and his expiring contract by sending a second-rounder to Buffalo for the chance to pair him with quarterback Jared Goff, who struggled as a rookie in 2016. Watkins pulled in just 39 receptions on 70 targets for 593 yards (15.2 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns in 15 games. Yet, he often drew the top opposing cornerbacks and created favorable coverage matchups for Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Todd Gurley. After the Rams decided to use the franchise tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner, Watkins was allowed to hit the free market. Now, the 24-year-old will pocket a minimum of $30 million from Kansas City and is set to become a free agent again at 27. Watkins has yet to produce the numbers of a top NFL receiver, but he’s lapping his competition when it comes to contract negotiations.
Andy Reid Is All Out of Bubble Gum
The Chiefs sent Alex Smith to Washington last month, promoting Pat Mahomes II, the 10th overall pick in 2017, to starting quarterback. With the Chiefs paying Mahomes just $1.2 million next season, they can afford to reinvest some of those savings into elite receiving talent to maximize his development, just like the Rams did with Goff last year. Adding Watkins to an offense that already includes receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, and running back Kareem Hunt will give Mahomes one of the most talented skill groups in the league.
Kansas City built one of the NFL’s most progressive offenses last year by “borrowing” concepts from college spread offenses and merging them with Andy Reid’s West Coast style to create a hybrid pro-college scheme. That spread-coast system shredded the Patriots in Week 1 and was copied throughout the league. It turned Smith, formerly known as the king of the checkdown, into one of the best deep passers in the league. Now Reid is handing the keys to Mahomes, who comes from Texas Tech’s Air Raid system, and adding Watkins just for the hell of it. Reid’s 20th season as an NFL coach might be the most fun one yet.
Chicago Buys Mitchell Trubisky a Friend
The Bears also surrounded their young, cheap quarterback with a 24-year-old wide receiver, but whereas Watkins was a luxury for Kansas City, Robinson was at the tippity-top of the Bears’ wish list entering March. Chicago traded receiver Brandon Marshall in 2015 and tight end Martellus Bennett in 2016, and let receiver Alshon Jeffery leave in free agency last year. The team failed to adequately replace any of them. Markus Wheaton, Cameron Meredith, and Josh Bellamy constituted an uninspiring receiving corps last season, and 2015 first-round pick Kevin White has played in just five NFL games despite being a year older than Robinson.
A combination of John Fox’s unimaginative offense, Mitchell Trubisky’s inexperience, and the team’s lackluster receiving group made Chicago’s offense one of the most unwatchable units in the league. Last season, the Bears were dead last in passing attempts (473), passing yards (2,811), passing first downs (144), and tied for last in passing touchdowns (13).
Robinson will help drag the Bears offense out of the Stone Age. He had a breakout sophomore season in 2015, catching 80 passes on 151 targets for 1,400 yards (17.5 yards per reception) and tying the league high with 14 receiving touchdowns. In 2016, his numbers dipped to 883 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 12.1 yards per reception, despite seeing exactly the same number of targets. But in Robinson’s defense, it’s hard to make Blake Bortles look good.
Robert McClain on Allen Robinson. Plays him well, ball thrown too far out of bounds (unfortunately for one man too close to the sideline) pic.twitter.com/9iBQd0Iq03— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 15, 2017
Robinson entered 2017 with the chance to prove his 2015 season was no fluke, but that plan was derailed just three snaps into the season, when he tore his left ACL. The Jaguars declined to franchise-tag him, and now Robinson has chosen Chicago as the place to restart his career.
With Fox gone, the Bears tapped former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy to be their head coach. Nagy coordinated and designed Kansas City’s spread-coast offense with Reid last year, and those concepts dovetail excellently with Trubisky, a mobile quarterback who doesn’t lose his accuracy when he leaves the pocket.
“I like what coach (Matt) Nagy did from an offensive standpoint in Kansas City,” Robinson said. “Me being able to see what he did in KC, being able to know that he is an offensive-minded coach & seeing what he’s done before (helped me).”
Like Watkins, Robinson is set to be a free agent again at 27 years old. If he produces in Nagy’s version of the spread-coast system, Robinson could enter his 30s as one of the richest receivers in NFL history.
The Bears finally have a no. 1 wide receiver locked up, and he’s already been flashing Chicago gear for a week (maybe we should have seen this coming).
It’s a great day for The Ringer’s Robert Mays.
You'll have to excuse me. I will be drunk and basking in revelry for the next three days. At least. https://t.co/0LBRfkQQdy— Robert Mays (@robertmays) March 13, 2018
After the magic wears off, Bears fans can worry about the other gaping holes in their roster. For now, they can thank the Jaguars for letting Robinson walk.