With Keenan Allen, the fast-improving Bears roster is set up for any QB

LAKE FOREST — When receiver Keenan Allen looks at the Chicago Bears roster, he sees talent.

He sees a team that will compete for a playoff spot.

And he sees a team that will do that despite potential changes at quarterback.

“We can be really special,” Allen said Saturday at Halas Hall. “We got weapons.”

The Bears signed a running back in D’Andre Swift who “can come out of the backfield and make plays and beat one-on-ones.” They have tight end Cole Kmet who “is really good.” And they also added tight end Gerald Everett, a former teammate from the Los Angeles Chargers, in free agency.

“So I was excited about it,” Allen said.

And of course the Bears have receiver DJ Moore. He was the first player Allen mentioned.

“Yeah, man, anytime you’ve got two guys that can make plays and beat man coverage, it’s going to be tough,” said Allen, whom the Bears acquired from the Chargers for the 110th pick in the NFL Draft. “That’s any time. Obviously, he’s a guy who has made plays in this league for a long time and myself as well. If you put both of us together, it’s going to be pretty good.”

With Allen added, this is the best a Bears roster has looked on paper in years. It’s a combination of the 2013 team that had receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and the 2018 version that fielded the best defense in the league with playmakers on all three levels.

It’s a playoff-worthy roster that appears ready for any quarterback. That could mean retaining current starter Justin Fields, selecting Caleb Williams with the first pick or trading back and drafting another quarterback in the first round.


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Allen was in his eighth season when the Los Angeles Chargers pivoted from future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers to Justin Herbert in 2020. The Chargers selected Herbert with the sixth pick in the draft that year while Rivers signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.

Los Angeles originally planned to start Tyrod Taylor. But Herbert replaced Taylor after a freak injury involving a punctured lung.

“Justin wasn’t for certain when he first got there,” Allen said. “Obviously, we had the battle with him and Tyrod after Philip left and Tyrod was the guy going into the season, and then ‘Herbo’ had to step up and be as great as he is.”

Allen led the Chargers with 100 catches for 992 yards and eight touchdowns during Herbert’s rookie season. In other words, whatever happens at quarterback, Allen will be expected to produce. It’s what great receivers do. Moore did the same throughout his career with the Carolina Panthers.

“I’m just a friendly guy,” Allen said when asked how his game could help a young quarterback. “I’m a friendly guy on and off the field. Obviously, on the football field, I know the game. I know the ins and outs, I know the zones, I know how to beat man, I know pretty much how to play the game. I just think I’m friendly for the quarterback because I’ll be in the right spots. I know how to communicate with him and my body language is solid, too.”

General manager Ryan Poles is far from finished. He has the first and ninth picks in the draft and a potential extension to work out with Allen, who is in the final year of his contract that carried over from the Chargers.

Allen said he doesn’t expect an extension soon, but the Bears are a team he can see himself with beyond the 2024 season.

“Absolutely — or we wouldn’t be here right now,” said Allen, who has six 1,000-yard receiving seasons and six Pro Bowl appearances in 11 seasons. “Obviously, we’ll get there down the line.”

With or without that extension, Allen’s place on the roster is one that could potentially help in the long term, especially when it comes to developing a quarterback. This is where the Williams/Fields arguments re-enter the conversation.

Allen, long considered one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, could help unlock what has been missing for Fields in his fourth season. This is by far the best roster Fields will be a part of in Chicago if the team opts to move forward with him as the starter in 2024.



Keenan Allen trade grades: Bears scoop up a star; Chargers feel sting of cap crunch

Or Allen could help a rookie find immediate success in the NFL if Poles takes his built-in pivot option and uses his draft capital to take his quarterback in his third season in charge of the Bears’ football operations.

Sharing the Los Angeles market, Allen said he met Williams but only once.

“Solid guy,” Allen said. “Down to earth, chill guy. (But) I don’t know much about him.”

But he does have an idea of what Williams can do with a football in his hands.

“Hell of an athlete,” Allen said. “Obviously, he can make tremendous plays with his feet, with his arm. Looks like he knows the game really well. Really good.”

With or without Williams, though, the Bears’ roster has improved with Allen. He said the Houston Texans and New York Jets were involved in trade conversations. And he explained how he felt when the Chargers asked him to take a pay cut.

“It really was no emotion,” Allen said. “It was ‘I’m not doing it.’ I’m not doing it. I just came off my best season, so it’s not happening.”

Instead, the Bears flew him and his family to Chicago on a private jet.

Allen reunited with receivers coach Chris Beatty, who coached him in Los Angeles and also Moore in college at Maryland.

And Allen will be an important veteran on a young and improving roster. He’s excited about that.

“When you start to see the roster shaping up the way it is,” Allen said, “I think we’re going to have a good shot.”



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(Photo: Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

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