As the start of the NFL Draft looms for the Bears next Thursday, that could mean taking a long look at the receiver position, where there's uncertainty looming for the franchise in 2021.
Top target Allen Robinson is entering the final season of his three-year contract. While the Bears remain hopeful they can sign Robinson to a long-term extension, it won't be a simple process. The team would have to rework its books to make that happen.
Robinson, who turns 27 in August, could command a deal in the neighborhood of five years and $85 million, a source said. The Cowboys' five-year, $100-million deal for receiver Amari Cooper certainly caught the attention of Robinson -- and a contract of that magnitude could be a burden on the Bears.
After releasing veteran Taylor Gabriel in February, the Bears are counting on more from Anthony Miller and developmental receivers like Javon Wims and Riley Ridley.
"There’s some depth there that we like," Pace said after releasing Gabriel. "But we’ll explore other avenues to increase competition there as well."
The Bears are in a solid spot with their receiving group for 2020 but could secure their future at the position with an addition in the draft. This class of receivers is deep enough that it should offer teams the opportunity to find value where they usually wouldn't. Pro Football Focus ranks 10 receivers among its top 36 prospects, and the Bears own a pair of second-round picks at No. 43 and No. 50 overall.
LSU's Justin Jefferson, Clemson's Tee Higgins and Notre Dame's Chase Claypool are among prospects who could fall to the Bears' positioning in the second round. Any one of those players could form a strong tandem with Robinson in 2020 and develop as his potential replacement if contract negotiations break off.
Should the Bears look to the later rounds for a receiver, there are interesting options like former top recruit and Michigan product Donovan Peoples-Jones, Florida's Van Jefferson and Mississippi State's Stephen Guidry.
But the Bears will have potential impact receivers available to them in this class, whether it's during the second round or later in the draft.
It's another factor for Pace to consider as he looks to address looming positional needs with this draft.