Allen Robinson Extension Part of Bears' Offseason Undercurrent

Gene Chamberlain

While trying to keep from saying too much about big issues facing their team, Bears coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace quietly say enough about smaller topics to make everyone sit up and take notice.

While Pace couldn't talk about negotiations with the team's free agents or other possible salary cap moves, he did make it apparent Cordarrelle Patterson wouldn't be a cap cut victim as some have wondered. And he also revealed there topic of a contract extension for Allen Robinson II has beed discussed.

The reason for the speculation about Patterson is he is taking up $5.75 million of cap space this year and last season he had the ball in his hands on offense 28 times, gaining 186 yards on either runs or passes. Of the $5.75 million, the Bears are not on the hook for $4.25 million if they cut him.

Pro Bowl and All-Pro status is great for kick return men, but ultimately a return man's value in the NFL these days is so much lower because of rule changes. Justifying $5.75 million for a player who touches the ball 28 times on offense is not easy.

"Yeah, that's a guy Matt and I have talked about just making sure we're maximizing his talent," Pace said. "Obviously he's an explosive, talented player. That can be at running back, receiver, returner.

"We're going to make sure we're getting the most out to that player because he's too talented not to."

Another player whose contract is up at the same time as Patterson's is Tarik Cohen. Instead of talk about extending Cohen, there are questions about what went wrong last year. Cohen dropped from 10.2 to 5.8 yards a reception, from 4.5 to 3.3 yards per carry, had his rushing yards cut in half to 213 and even his punt return average dipped a bit.

"It's hard to put one thing on that," Pace said. "I know his mindset is to come out and have a strong upcoming season. It's hard because there's a lot of players that feel like they need to be better.

"Me as a GM, us as coaches, we all need to be better, and I know Cohen will be motivated."

Motivation seemed to be something of a topic. Nagy even talked about complacency and some players who might need to avoid it in the future.

Nagy wants players with a chip on their shoulders, who feel the competition for their job.

"Yeah, I want everybody to feel that way," Nagy said. "If you don't, you feel content and you play content you don't have that chip. I think everybody on our team, and I had a lot of different individual talks with players and I'm not going to get into who they are or where they are at but there are some guys and they know who they are that can play with a chip on their shoulder.

"And that's the part to me that going into this year, I want to see if they have that chip."

It isn't hard to figure out who some of them are. The offensive line all had contracts, then allowed more sacks (45) than any time since 2011, while blocking the run at a rate so the Bears averaged 3.7 yards a carry for 29th in the league.

The reason it wasn't hard to figure out who needed to have more motivation was Nagy's description about what new offensive line coach Juan Castillo brings to the blocking sleds

"Coach Castillo, here is the best part about him, is he pushes you like none other so when you get out to practice and see how hard he works these guys," Nagy said. "He's going to push them to the brink but at the same time, they are going to know that he would fall on a sword for them. Right? And I think you feel that.

"I've witnessed it (when they coached in Philadelphia), I've witnessed it in practices, I've witnessed it in meeting rooms and that's very important for those guys. This will be our third year together and we know that even in those positions we will have some competition rolling."

Translated: There will be new offensive linemen coming in through the draft or free agency, Castillo doesn't play favorites and will be kicking rear ends.

Twitter: BearsDigest@BearsOnMaven

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