Will Sunday be the last game in a Bears’ uniform for franchise-tagged receiver Allen Robinson?
Or will Robinson play a role in a victory over San Francisco that prompts General Manager Ryan Pace to aggressively pursue help in the secondary or offensive line as the Bears dig in to reach the postseason behind rookie quarterback Justin Fields?
The game against the 49ers will be followed by Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
It is more likely the Bears will be sellers than buyers, as most computers currently list their chance to win a wild card spot in the range of 10-17 percent. But both Pace, the seventh-year GM, and fourth-year head coach Matt Nagy are fighting to hang onto their jobs.
Following back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the Bears are 3-4 and currently favored to win only two more games the rest of the season (against the Lions on Thanksgiving and the Giants in Week 17. The 49ers are currently four-point favorites for Sunday’s game, so all points sign to the Bears limping into the deadline as motivated sellers — provided Pace can be realistic given his dubious standing.
Here’s a ranking of the Bears’ potential trade assets:
Robinson — He’s having a miserable season (23 catches for 250 yards and one touchdown) and could be a difficult salary cap fit given his $17.8 million salary. But he was ninth in the NFL in receiving yards (1250) last season, which makes him attractive to teams like the Chiefs and the Saints, who are having trouble establishing offensive consistency.
Among the teams with the most cap room, Robinson could be especially attractive to Jacksonville and Philadelphia, assuming he is willing to sign a contract extension that keeps him off the free agent market. Holding onto him on a team playing out the string brings limited value, especially given the Bears stashing Breshad Perriman on the practice squad.
Akiem Hicks — In his age-32 season, and sixth year with the Bears, he’s a popular and useful player. But he’s in the final season of his four-year, $48-million contract and showing sign of wear. He was in and out of the lineup due to a groin injury in October but has been on the practice field this week. A strong showing this week could make him attractive to contenders and perhaps bring the Bears a third- or fourth-round draft pick in return.
Damien Williams — The veteran running back opened the season as the top backup behind David Montgomery but has fallen behind rookie Khalil Herbert on the depth chart. He’s earning $1 million so could be an option for any team looking for running back depth.
James Daniels — He’s been one of the Bears’ most consistent players on an undermanned offensive line, and is only 24. Trading the 327-pound guard would be a blow for Fields, Montgomery (when he returns from injury) and Herbert but it would be a smart tough-love play if the team doesn’t want to reward him with a big contract. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract.
If the Bears beat the 49ers, they could not only keep Robinson but look to add a third receiver to play alongside Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Perriman could get into the mix as newcomers Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd have not taken advantage of early opportunities.
It’s a given that they’d look to upgrade the offensive line and the secondary if they double down on their chance to seriously contend for a playoff spot.
One speculated upon possibility would be among the biggest deals in the league — Robinson to the Dolphins for one of Miani’s highly paid cornerbacks, Xavien Howard Byron Jones. Neither the Bears nor the Dolphins have a lot of cap room but the salaries here are close enough to make it a possibility.