Is there any chance the Bears won't tag Allen Robinson?
One thing most can agree on is it appears unlikely the Bears and Allen Robinson will work out a new deal before Tuesday. And it is impossible to imagine the Bears are a better team without him or at least without reasonable compensation for losing him.
The deadline for teams to use their one franchise or transition tag is 3 p.m. Tuesday.
An exclusive franchise tag on Robinson means he cannot negotiate with any other team and would receive the average salary of the five highest paid receivers in the league.
This tag has only been used four times on Le'Veon Bell (2017), Kirk Cousins (2017), Von Miller (2016) and Drew Brees (2012) in 10 years.
Or they could use the nonexclusive franchise tag, paying Robinson the average salary of the five highest paid wide receivers in the league over the last five years, he could negotiate with other teams but another team signing him would give the Bears two first-round draft choices or the Bears could match the offer.
No one is giving up two No. 1s for Robinson, so if they go the franchise route this is the tag they'd use.
The third choice is a transition tag that would cause the Bears to pay him the average of the 10 highest paid wide receivers last year. Robinson could negotiate with other teams, but the Bears would have the right to match, and if they did not match they receive no compensation.
The transition tag is the strategy Ryan Pace used to retain Kyle Fuller in 2018 when he matched the deal Fuller got from the Packers.
Once tagged with any of these options Robinson and the Bears would have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract, but after the 15th he would have to play under the tag this season or hold out.
Under the franchise tag Robinson would be paid $16.43 million. He'd get $14.27 million with a transition tag.
One big drawback to these tags is either of those amounts would count fully against the Bears' already extremely challenged 2021 salary cap.
NFL teams have traditionally used tags sparingly with only six, five, five, nine and six players tagged from 2019 going back to 2015, respectively, but it exploded last year with 15 players getting tagged.
One of the advantages of these tags is beyond being able to control the player. A team can attempt to tag and trade a player if the player can get the deal he wants from the team he's traded to, and the team trading him at least gets compensation more commensurate with his value.
Tags can be rescinded at any time.
This is why it would be nuts for the Bears not to at least tag Robinson if for no other reason than to buy time and try and get something of value in return if they can't keep him.
There is another wrinkle.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Cairo Santos, Patrick O'Donnell and Tashaun Gipson are other free agents the Bears don't want to lose, particularly Patterson and Santos.
Patterson won't get tagged because as valuable as he is, he'd be paid the wide receiver value and that's just too much.
But tagging kickers is commonplace -- nine in the last 10 seasons -- because the one-year salary they get isn't a cap killer or that different from what they'd get in a long-term deal.
Choosing Santos over Robinson sounds crazy, but it is about $11.5 million more cap friendly and stranger things have happened.
Historically the Bears have been frugal with tags -- Fuller, Alshon Jeffery, Henry Melton, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, Bryan Robinson, Raymont Harris and Donnell Woolford are the players they've tagged.
What would be stunning is if the Bears don't tag Robinson.