What the Anthony Miller Trade Means for the Bears

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Saturday news broke that the Bears were trading wide receiver Anthony Miller to the Texans for a “late round pick swap.” Mid-day Monday compensation was released to the media, Chicago would send Miller and a 2022 seventh round pick to Houston in exchange for the Texans’ 2022 fifth rounder.

Frankly this was far more in return than most Bears fans were expecting considering the team had been trying to move the receiver since mid-March. It was assumed that the Bears could get their most value from Miller keeping him on the team and letting him play out the final year of his rookie contract.

There’s no reason to mince words, Anthony Miller was not the receiver Bears’ General Manager Ryan Pace thought he was trading up for in the 2018 draft. Miller had a breakout rookie season hauling in seven touchdown passes, the most of any player on the Bears that season. However, as Miller’s time with the team grew, Matt Nagy and company grew less patient with the wideout. The rumor was that Miller was often late to meetings or practices, and it showed on Sundays. Through three seasons under Matt Nagy, Miller consistently lined up in the wrong spots, ran incorrect or lazy routes, and battled with bouts of dropped balls every few games.

Heading into the 2020 it was assumed that Miller would once again be the second wide receiver on the depth chart and take the majority of the work that comes with such designation. However, fifth round rookie Darnell Mooney quickly established himself as a rising prospect who needed more opportunities. Head Coach Matt Nagy took notice and made habit to expand Mooney’s role each week until finally Anthony Miller had dropped to reserve/slot receiver duties.

It’s believed that the final straw was when Miller was ejected from the Bears Wild Card Game versus the New Orleans Saints last year. Receivers Coach Mike Furrey gave his squad specific instructions to avoid interaction with defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a well known smack talker who had previously gotten under the skin of wide receiver Javon Wims during the Bears and Saints regular season matchup. As Anthony Miller had done most of his career in Chicago, he ignored his coaches and took a swing at Gardner-Johnson after some back and forth between the players, leading to Miller’s ejection.

Regardless of what was to come of Anthony Miller, the Bears made it a point to upgrade their wide receiver depth this offseason. Through free agency, Chicago added speedy veterans Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Early reports on Goodwin have been excellent, which could have lead to the Bears feeling comfortable enough to move on from Miller. The team also got excellent value in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft when they selected Dazz Newsome out of North Carolina.

Unfortunately, the Bears rookie receiver suffered a broken collarbone during the team’s organized team activities earlier this season leading to Newsome starting training camp on the physically unable to preform list. While Goodwin and Byrd have lots of combined NFL experience, most of their work has been on the outside. So with Miller gone, who plays the slot?

According to Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger, star wide receiver Allen Robinson II is expected to have an expanded role in the slot this year. This is becoming a common trend in the NFL, as cornerbacks become bigger, faster, and stronger, teams are taking their most talented pass catchers and giving them a more favorable matchup via alignment. In the slot, Robinson will face generally smaller nickel-backs or bigger but slower linebackers. This will be an interesting storyline to follow through the 2021 season as Robinson continues to prove his value to the team.

Ultimately, it was pretty clear the Bears wanted to move on from Miller sooner rather than later. They positioned themselves to make the move before camp which was best for the player and the team. Hopefully, in a contract year, on a new team, in a new city, Miller can finally straighten himself out and prioritize his football career.

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