General manager Ryan Pace theoretically employed the strategy of using an original round tender on the 25-year-old Meredith in order to entice offers from teams such as this. The idea, which was similar to putting a transition tag on Kyle Fuller, was for someone else to essentially write Meredith’s new contract for the Bears. Chicago understood his market better than anyone in this respect. Evidently, concerns about how Meredith was recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 3 of the 2017 preseason superseded any of those wishful thoughts. The Bears simply weren’t comfortable in giving the young receiver a two-year, $10 million dollar deal.
Meredith’s deal with New Orleans is a win for the Saints if he can be anywhere close to the playmaker he was in 2016 where he lead the Bears in most relevant receiving statistics. Drew Brees has found himself another weapon to play around with.
From Chicago’s perspective, they now have a major hole at their No. 2 wideout slot, and potentially have to take a receiver high in the 2018 NFL Draft. Overall, it’s a skill position group with a lot of projections and question marks now. Even more than before. This was a decision that could’ve been avoided for what certainly seemed like an affordable deal with an extra year of control for the Bears.
With his return to Chicago officially out of the question, Meredith will work to have a strong return. And the Bears look to pick up the pieces and refine an offense built around their head coach in Matt Nagy and quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. Because if all works out, those two are the only truly irreplaceable people in Chicago’s offense. That core projection has to come without the benefit of any results to back up decisions like not matching Meredith’s offer sheet.
Pace and the Bears have their work cut out for them with Meredith’s departure. Only time will tell if they were correct in letting a homegrown talent walk away because of health issues.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.