Keenan Allen

How trade for ‘perfect fit' Keenan Allen came together at right time for Bears' new QB path

Ryan Poles couldn't let the rare opportunity to acquire Keenan Allen slip through his fingers

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ORLANDO -- Bears general manager Ryan Poles was in the market for a veteran wide receiver during the opening week of free agency. The Bears planned to bring in some notable names when an unexpected star became available in Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.

The Bears knew Allen could become a cap casualty and quickly pivoted their focus to securing the soon-to-be 32-year-old receiver. A deal came together in a matter of hours as the Bears sent a 2024 fourth-round pick to Los Angeles to acquire Allen.

“That’s one of the things that our staff does really well, just identify potential cap casualties based on what other teams are looking to do," Poles said Monday at the annual NFL league meeting in Orlando about the Allen deal. "We didn’t have total clarity on it, but when it happened we were able to adjust and get into some conversations that we could capitalize on it. My time in KC I watched him do some really cool things for a long period of time, and to watch the tape it actually blew me away of how high of a level he’s still playing at his age.”

Two days after acquiring Allen, Poles struck a deal to send quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick. In sending Fields to Pittsburgh, Poles cleared the way for the Bears to draft a rookie quarterback, presumably Caleb Williams, with the No. 1 overall pick.

Allen is a savvy veteran receiver who excels at creating separation. When Allen went on the market, Poles saw an opportunity to make life a lot easier for Williams or whoever the Bears select.

"Keenan Allen popped up, which was a really cool opportunity for where we’re headed, which is going to be with a young quarterback," Poles said. "I thought it was an absolute perfect fit. I don’t think there’s a better receiver in the league that can be better for a young quarterback in terms of understanding the NFL, timing, space, reading defenses. So I think that’s a great addition. It balances the field with [wide receiver DJ Moore] on the other side, Cole [Kmet] and [Gerald] Everett at tight end, [D'Andre] Swift at running back. We have a lot of really cool things that can get going and allow us to be dynamic and really special."

Allen is entering the final year of his contract, but neither he nor the Bears plan for this to be a one-year odyssey.

The Cal product said he definitely sees a long-term future in Chicago, or else he wouldn't have been OK with the trade.

Poles is adamant that he wants Allen to be a Bear past 2024, but time will tell when an extension will get done.

“I think down the road," Poles said Monday about an extension for Allen. "I try to be intentional with the order that we do extensions, so we’ll review that and kind of see what our order looks like. But for what he stands for, I would love to have him long term.”

Allen's extension talks could be tied to what the Bears do with the No. 9 pick or a potential extension for Moore, who is coming off a career year and is on a team-friendly deal he signed while in Carolina.

Poles has been deliberate and disciplined in almost every move he has made as the Bears' general manager. A potential Allen extension would be no different.

The Bears want him to be part of their quarterback development vision that stretches past 2024. Chances are good that he will be. But they must see how their vision shakes out before they tie themselves to Allen long term.

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