Letting young WR walk for free proves the Bears still don’t get it

Eric Kush and Cameron Meredith

The Chicago Bears have had themselves a nice little offseason. Adding the likes of wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, as well as tight end Trey Burton, seemingly sets second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky up well heading into the 2018 campaign.

Letting the Green Bay Packers set the market for cornerback Kyle Fuller, who Chicago had placed the transition tag on, was also a smart move by GM Ryan Pace and Co.

Unfortunately, all the good will that was created in free agency came a screeching halt on Wednesday with news that Chicago had decided not to match the two-year, $9.6 million offer sheet the New Orleans Saints placed on young receiver Cameron Meredith.

It’s not necessarily that Chicago didn’t want to pay Meredith $4.8 million per season coming off a torn ACL that’s the issue here. Instead, it’s all about the team’s inability to understand just how restricted free agency works. If Chicago had simply placed a second-round tender on Meredith, it would have been able to retain him for under $3 million next season. If another team had signed him, Chicago would have received a second-round pick in return. That didn’t happen.

Chicago handed Meredith, an undrafted free agent, an original round tender. This means that New Orleans was able to swoop him up without giving the Bears anything in return.

Still just 25 years old, the 6-foor-3 Meredith is one season removed from putting up 66 receptions for 888 yards while catching passes from the likes of Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler and David Fales in the Windy City. He still has not hit his prime and would have provided Trubisky with yet another reliable receiving target on the outside.

With nearly $33 million in cap room, Chicago could have easily afforded paying Meredith that $2.8 million on a prove-it deal after he sustained a torn ACL last season. Instead, the team let him move on to a Saints squad where he’ll likely become one of the most underrated receivers in the game.

It’s essential for an organization to understand the nuances of every aspect of the offseason if said team is going to build a contender. The Bears knew full well how to handle the Kyle Fuller situation. Unfortunately, they crashed and burned when it came to Meredith.

That will lead to him becoming yet another 1,000-yard receiver in New Orleans, while Chicago looks for Allen Robinson and the always injury-plagued Kevin White to rebound after lost 2017 campaigns. All the while, still relying on Trubisky to progress under first-year head coach Matt Nagy. Yeah, that’s not ideal.