Even during a busy free-agent period that featured countless surprising player departures and acquisitions, the Bears’ decision to trade a fourth-round selection for Keenan Allen shocked the entire league. While some were disappointed that the team parted ways with their first-day three selection in a draft where they only had five picks in total left, most praised them for adding the six-time Pro Bowler to the fold. However, at 31-years-old (he turns 32 next month), it’s worth pondering how much he has left in the tank.

Historically, Father Time tends to catch up with receivers at the stage of their career that Allen is at now, and it can often strike out of nowhere. Julio Jones was arguably the league’s best receiver throughout the 2010s and averaged 85 yards per game in 2020. However, he began showing signs of slowing down that year (at the age of 31), and Atlanta traded him to Tennessee for a second and fourth-round selection. They seemingly made the move at the right time, as Jones never returned to his elite level of play and has turned into somewhat of a journeyman since.

Before Jones developed into the league’s premier deep threat, Randy Moss held the same title for an extended period. However, after three straight 1000-yard, double-digit touchdown seasons from 2007 to 2009, his age caught up to him the following year. New England traded him to Minnesota for a third-round selection after a lackluster start to the season. He only played four games with the Vikings before they cut him, and he took the next year off before returning for one more underwhelming season in San Francisco. Another move made at the right time.

Moss was a bit older at the time (he was 33), but I think the comparison is relevant because both he and Jones made their living through speed and explosiveness, which tend to be the first traits to go when players reach a certain point in their career. While they may be two of the most significant examples of stark receiver falloffs, they are surely not alone. Countless pass-catchers have fallen to the same fate over the years, and very few can maintain elite play into their mid-30s. Since 2010, only four receivers have reached the 1000-yard mark during their age-32 season.

How good of a chance does Allen have to break the trend? Well, if last season was any indication, he should be just fine. Despite playing only 13 games, the playmaker had 1243 yards and a career-high 108 catches. If he played the entire season and maintained his yards-per-game average (95.6), he would have had the second-most receiving yards for a 31-year-old in NFL history, behind only Jerry Rice. Likewise, he had two of the three best total receiving yard outputs of his career (215 yards and 175 yards), proving he is still just as dominant as ever.

Allen has shown remarkable consistency since returning from an ACL tear in 2017, and he has been one of the league’s most consistent pass-catchers and dangerous slot weapons during that span. As mentioned above, speed and explosiveness are usually the first qualities to go when Father Time comes knocking. Well, Allen famously ran a 4.71-second 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day (albeit while recovering from an injury), and those qualities were never strengths of his game. That has never been how he wins. He thrives in the same role that certified Father Time killer Larry Fitzgerald did with the Cardinals a decade ago, and he could follow a similar trajectory to close out his career.

The Bears trade for Allen is nothing like the Titans trading for a past-his-prime Julio Jones and the Vikings trading for a late-stage Randy Moss. While their previous teams were looking to sell high on proven commodities at the right time, there is no indication that the Chargers felt similarly about Allen. In fact, they previously tried to sign him to an extension before making the move. Now, Chicago will have a chance to do just that for a player destined to become an elite safety blanket for a promising young quarterback. It’s tough to fathom a more ideal pairing than that.

Allen has shown no signs of slowing down and fits the mold of the type of player who can continue playing at a high level for years to come. The fact that they got him for nothing more than a day-three selection is icing on the cake. It was an A+ trade for Ryan Poles and Co.


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