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Good morning, frents!
Big week ahead with the first full-squad workouts in Arizona, Zach LaVine likely getting named to his first All-Star team and the Bears getting linked to another half-dozen quarterbacks.
I'm also mixing in a few more voices on Midway Minute this week, so that's exciting too. Stay tuned.
Wisconsin 68, N'Western 51
Bulls at Rockets (7, NBCSCH)
Pay Allen Robinson now
One of my favorite Simpsons lines happens to be Lyle Lanley's quip about the mule with the spinning wheel.
"No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it."
You can apply it to so many situations in sports and danged if I haven't rolled it out on Twitter a time or two over the years.
But if there were ever a perfect application for that quote, it's when the Bears have a top-flight wide receiver on their roster.
If we were talking about almost any other franchise, Allen Robinson would be sitting at home with a signed piece of paper containing a lot of zeroes.
Robinson is just 27 years old and already has three 1,000-yard seasons and 39 touchdowns to his name over seven years with the Jaguars and Bears. For the past three years, he's been the flashy hood ornament on the broken-down jalopy that is the Bears offense — consistently the only reason Mitchell Trubisky was able to navigate from Point A to Point B.
But instead of giving A-Rob a little something for, you know, the effort of a 102-catch, 1,250-yard campaign in 2020, the Bears have forced Robinson to go on a media offensive to fortify his own position.
Robinson spoke at length with 'Go Long" newsletter writer Tyler Dunne before hosting his own shindig on the new Clubhouse app on Thursday night. His words for the Bears weren't harsh in either place, but his stance is clear.
Robinson wants to be paid like the top receiver he happens to be.
And at no point over the past year have the Bears made it seem like they're willing to do just that.
Robinson's biggest looming issue is the franchise tag, which the Bears can place on him as early as Tuesday and as late as March 9. Doing so would give the Bears one more year of Robinson's services at $18 million — or give the team the option to trade him to another franchise.
The franchise tag, of course, is unjust for players and it's another failing of the NFLPA that it still exists — but that's another column for another time. The Bears would be negligent in not applying it and letting Robinson walk for nothing.
Yet you can believe that and still feel bad for the raw deal that Robinson might get. He took a shorter three-year deal with the Bears after missing the 2017 Jaguars season with an ACL tear and was bent on proving he deserved a bigger and longer deal.
Now after doing just that — catching three years of passes from Trubisky after three from Blake Bortles — Robinson is facing the prospect of risking an injury that could take away the longer-term deal he's earned, maybe for good.
As a Bears fan who's admired the way Robinson has carried himself both on the field and off, I think that just plain sucks.
Let's go back to that Simpsons quote quick, though.
The Bears franchise receiving leaders page is an exercise in comedy, a table that makes you wonder if the top half got left off somehow.
But nope. Johnny Morris is still the franchise leader in receiving yards with 5,059, by far the lowest total among the 32 NFL teams.
Curtis Conway and Brandon Marshall, meanwhile, lead the franchise with 31 receiving touchdowns in the Super Bowl era. (1940s end Ken Kavanaugh leads overall with 50.)
Through three seasons, Robinson has caught 17 touchdown passes and gained 3,151 yards. If the Bears gave him an extension, Robinson would almost assuredly catch both Morris and Conway/Marshall and have a decent shot at catching Kavanaugh.
But that would require the Bears to recognize what they have.
Robinson is a bonafide No. 1 receiver with the type of strong off-field character the Bears always say they want. He's a building block no matter who's under center in the future and already one of the better receivers in team history.
If the Bears can find money for Robert Quinn or Jimmy Graham, they can find a Lanley-sized suitcase full of cash for Robinson.
No reason to make this more complicated than they already have.
🌵 Spring Training news
Position players are already starting to filter into both camps, but most of the early media coverage has focused on the pitchers who reported to Arizona last week.
Last year's first-round pick Garrett Crochet reported to camp with 15 added pounds of muscle, which might get people to stop comparing him to Chris Sale but also might make others worried about increased injury risk or decreased productivity. The 21-year-old lefty figures to be a bullpen option for Tony La Russa this season.
- Michael Kopech talked too, though he didn't shine much light on his reported off-field struggles the last year. "I think I learned that I need this game a lot more than I realized."
- La Russa says he's been vaccinated.
Jake Arrieta's contract was made official by the Cubs and he met with the media. He seems more confident in the team's chances than most.
- "From everything I’ve seen, there’s no reason that we can’t succeed at the highest level again," Arrieta said.
- Zach Davies, who came to the Cubs in the Yu Darvish trade, also introduced himself so we can tell him apart from Kyle Hendricks.
- Doc Emrick redid his call of Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup winning goal and it was predictably awesome. NHL on NBC
- Yes, that was Chuck Swirsky reading scripture at this weekend's televised mass from Holy Name. Twitter
- Ayo Dosunmu recorded another triple-double over the weekend. Here are four reasons he wins the Wooden Award. Writing Illini
- PFF predicted landing spots for the top 150 free agents and has Robinson going to the Dolphins and Mitch Trubisky heading ... back to the Bears. NBC Sports Chicago
- High school hoops are back! Watch as Notre Dame beats Fenwick on a long buzzer-beater over the weekend. ND Media Crew
Finally, a reminder: When it's your turn for vaccination, have them go with the non-throwing shoulder.