The Bears aren’t in bad shape at wide receiver. In fact, if Anthony Miller makes a complete recovery from his second straight offseason surgery on his left shoulder and picks up exactly where he left off this season, along with Allen Robinson the Bears will have a legitimate one-two punch at the position for the first time since Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were last together and healthy.Taylor Gabriel has demonstrated he can be a valuable No. 3 when healthy, and in spite of a much slower than expected rookie campaign from Riley Ridley, there is still good cause for hope he might fit anywhere between No. 2 and No. 4 in the WR pecking order, while Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson are available as dangerous and special weapons either in the slot or split out wide.
There was optimism around the potential of Javon Wims heading into 2019, but after a good exhibition season he seemed to regress when given his chances as the season went on.
It is unlikely this will be a position of need this offseason, but don’t be surprised if the Bears use a Day 3 pick on a prospect or two with speed to burn.
2019 Matter of Fact: A full season removed from ACL surgery, though he wasn’t bad in 2018, when recovery and a couple of nagging injuries limited him to 55-754-4 receiving, Robinson increased his production by over 35 percent and almost doubled his catches, finishing 98-1,147-7. He upped his previous single-season best by 18 catches and notched the second 1,000-plus yard season of his career.
While dropping from 7 TD catches in ’18 to two last season, Miller also significantly increased his rookie numbers in catches and yards.
Unfortunately, injuries cut Gabriel’s playing time and production in half, and it seemed Cohen and Patterson were used a lot less in receiver sets than they could have been.
Ridley’s six catches for 69 yards, all coming late in the year, raised as many questions as they answered, but they were due almost exclusively to a lack of playing time rather than poor play.
The question: Why couldn’t Ridley get on the field more, especially with all the time Gabriel missed?
Cap Commitment: With 14.26 percent of their total cap allotted for wideouts, per spotrac, the Bears have the NFL’s fourth-largest cap investment in the position.
That, and his issues staying on the field this past season are why many believe Gabriel could be a cap casualty, a likelihood that seemed more certain prior to Miller re-injuring his shoulder in the final game of the season and creating some concern about him getting back to 100 percent.
Gabriel’s $6.5 million cap hit is 20 percent of the Bears’ total dollars invested in receivers, and releasing him, drafting for speed in the later rounds and shopping for younger, cheaper, less accomplished pass catchers with similar speed in free agency is a distinct possibility.
Robinson is going into the final year of his deal with a $15 million cap hit, and the Bears would love to extend him, tying up their top pass catcher while lessening his cap cost on the front end of a new deal.
Offseason Need (1 Highest, 5 Lowest): The need here for the Bears is a 3.5 or 4, but that could change as the offseason progresses and they get a better handle on where Miller is in his recovery.
Again, more speed always helps, one lesson Matt Nagy learned in Kansas City, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or at the top of the shopping list and if they don’t move on from Gabriel the Bears could stand pat here.
Available prospects to watch: Philip Dorsett may be a free agent of interest for the Bears. The former first-rounder has speed to burn, is still just 27 and after the positive experience of acquiring Cordarrelle Patterson from New England this season, Dorsett would make sense if they move on from Gabriel.
K.J. Hill from Ohio St., Aaron Fuller of Washington, Nebraska’s J.D. Spielman, James Proche from SMU, Florida’s Van Jefferson and Charleston Rambo from Oklahoma are a few possible Day 3 draft-types to keep an eye on in the next couple of months.