Even though NFL free agency doesn’t officially begin for another month and a half, the market has already undergone significant upheaval since the regular season’s conclusion. Daron Payne is likely to receive the franchise tag from the Commanders, eliminating the Bears’ chance to sign him. Taylor Lewan and Robert Woods were released by the Titans, who then added a new left tackle and wide receiver to the lineup. It’s smart to be prepared for the unexpected at this time of year. In light of the fact that the Chargers will have to reduce some wages in order to stay under the cap, Bears fans have pondered whether Keenan Allen would become available.
Allen, one of the Chargers’ highest-paid players with a $21.7 million cap hit in 2023, is projected by Spotrac to be about $20 million over the cap for the team. The Chargers could save $17.5 million if they choose to remove Allen after June 1 according to Spotrac. Naturally, the Chargers wouldn’t have to take such dramatic measures to make the money work. Tom Telesco, the general manager of the Chargers, can certainly do that with any number of players to avoid cutting a player of Allen’s caliber. GMs move money about all the time with altered contracts and void years. In order to make up the same amount of money, Telesco might potentially fire a few less important players.
The point is that Allen’s entry into the market is far from certain. Let’s assume, though, that the Chargers actually release Allen. He might be the person the Bears have been searching for.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals. Allen is described as being 6’2″ and 211 pounds. Since 2013, he has caught 796 passes for 9,287 yards and 52 touchdowns, and from 2017 to 2021, he was selected for five straight Pro Bowls. Due to a persistent hamstring injury, Allen’s 2022 season was only truly seven full games long, but when he returned to full health toward the end of the year, he was still unbeatable. He averaged 7.9 catches and 83 yards per game between Weeks 12 and 18. Over those seven games, he hauled in four touchdown passes. A season’s worth of that results in an astounding 134-1,411-10 campaign.
Allen, who spent 59.5% of his snaps last season in the slot, is still regarded as one of the top route runners in the game. Although some prefer to think of their No. 1 wideout as an outside threat, it doesn’t matter to the Bears. The Bears are willing to move another elite receiver somewhere since they have Chase Claypool locked down at wide out. That might be in the slot where Allen excels or on the opposing side of the field.
Due to his recurrent hamstring issue from last season and multiple other injuries that kept him out for several seasons early in his career, some people who don’t think Allen could be the person in Chicago characterize him as “injury prone.” But that is a lazy justification. Allen’s durability shouldn’t be questioned, as he only missed three games throughout his Pro Bowl run from 2017 to 2021. As Allen will turn 31 this year, some people will cite his age as a deterrent. Yet Allen doesn’t rely on lightning speed to establish distance. Allen is a craftsman, and other receivers in his age bracket who are outstanding route runners have kept up their domination.
However, there is no promise that Allen will be available this year. But if he does, the Bears ought to give signing him serious consideration.