For another $1 million dollars, the Bears could have made sure Cameron Meredith was theirs this season.
But apparently the concerns over his reconstructed knee forced them into a cautious valuation, and so they lost him without compensation yesterday when they didn’t match the Saints offer sheet for the wide receiver. They tendered the former undrafted rookie at the lowest level of $1.9 million, when tendering him at $2.9 million would have gotten them a second-round pick if someone would have signed him away (or more accurately, scared off any suitors for a year).
According to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, the primary factor in their decision to not tag the restricted free agent at a more restrictive level was the fact they were worried about Meredith’s recovery from a torn ACL and partially torn MCL in a preseason game. Campbell reported that “heavy doubt about Meredith’s knee has existed since his surgery,” and that by late October, the team was uncertain about his future.
It must have been a considerable concern, since they still need all the offensive weapons that they can get and they’re still sitting on $24 million in cap room, meaning they could have easily absorbed the two-year, $9.6 million offer the Saints lured him away with.
Making it that much more strange is they guaranteed a lot more money to another wide receiver coming off an ACL tear.
The Bears gave Allen Robinson a three-year, $42 million contract, with $25.2 million guaranteed. He tore his ACL in the regular season opener for the Jaguars, weeks after Meredith’s injury.
Granted, Robinson has better back-of-the-football-card stats than Meredith, but not by a margin larger than the difference in their paychecks. Robinson had a 1,400-yard season in 2015, but in 2016, his 73-catch, 883-yard, six-touchdown stat line isn’t much different from Meredith’s 66-888-4.
Considering the Bears monitored Meredith’s rehab all last season, they’re in the best position to know what’s happening in that knee. But given General Manager Ryan Pace’s track record of finding qualified receivers vs. the Saints’, it’s worth wondering whether they were penny wise and pound foolish on this deal.