Bears acquire WR Keenan Allen from Chargers for 4th-round pick

Justin Herbert's surprising stats without Keenan Allen, Mike Williams (0:54)

With the Chargers moving on from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, we look back at how Justin Herbert has fared without his top wideouts. (0:54)

CHICAGO -- The Bears made their biggest splash in free agency Thursday night, sending a fourth-round pick to the Chargers in exchange for wide receiver Keenan Allen, the teams announced.

Allen, 31, is entering the final season of the four-year contract extension he signed in 2020 and is due a $5 million roster bonus Sunday. After declining to take a pay cut from the Chargers, he has a new home in the Bears' offense opposite wideout DJ Moore.

A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Allen will reunite with wide receivers coach Chris Beatty, who coached the same position with the Chargers from 2021 to 2023. Allen caught a career-high 108 passes last season and posted the second-best output of his 11-year career with 1,243 yards and seven touchdowns. It marked the sixth time in Allen's career that he crossed 1,000 receiving yards.

Chicago has four picks remaining in the draft (Nos. 1, 9, 75, and 122 via Philadelphia) after sending one of two fourth-round picks (No. 110) to the Chargers on Thursday.

"We're extremely excited to add Keenan to our team," Bears general manager Ryan Poles said. "His body of work speaks for itself and we look forward to him elevating our offense."

After catching passes from Justin Herbert over the past four seasons, Allen will be working with a new quarterback in 2024. Bears incumbent Justin Fields is set to enter his fourth NFL season while Chicago is expected to use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback, with USC's Caleb Williams the consensus top pick. Poles has intimated that he would be open to trading Fields this offseason, but as the first wave of free agency draws to a close, Fields, 25, remains on the Bears roster with over a month until the draft.

Last month at the NFL combine, coach Matt Eberflus noted the priority of adding more players to Chicago's wide receiver room. Former Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney signed a three-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, leaving Moore, Velus Jones Jr., Tyler Scott and Nsimba Webster as the only wide receivers on the roster. Webster has spent the majority of his career in Chicago on the practice squad.

"We don't have a lot of depth there, first of all," Eberflus said last month. "That's the first part. Adding some dynamic pieces there through free agency or through the draft potentially, so to me when you're trying to defend that, when you have a weapon at tight end and you have a weapon at the X receiver like DJ. When you add a piece or two to the other side, it really balances you out. It's hard to defend for sure."

The addition of Allen gives Chicago another bona fide star at wide receiver. He is coming off his fifth season with 100 receptions, which is tied for the third most in NFL history, trailing only Antonio Brown and Brandon Marshall. Allen also holds the record for most games with 15 receptions (3) and ranks fourth all time for most games with 10 receptions. He had four games with 10 receptions last season, tied for the second most in the NFL.

Allen is the third skill player the Bears have added on offense this week, along with former Chargers tight end Gerald Everett, who agreed to a two-year contract, and running back D'Andre Swift, who signed a three-year, $24 million contract Thursday.

Allen was among four Chargers players who entered the offseason with cap hits upwards of $30 million next season, along with outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa and wide receiver Mike Williams, whom the team released Wednesday, saving $20 million this year. The players represented four of the five highest non-quarterback cap hits in the NFL.

Allen's departure always seemed unlikely, though. He was the longest-tenured player on the Chargers, drafted by the team in the third round in 2013. He has the franchise records for yards and receptions by a receiver. Most important, Allen had perhaps the best season of his career in 2023. Despite missing the final four games with a heel injury, he set the Chargers' single-season record for receptions and was the most reliable weapon in a receiving corps that was inconsistent throughout the season.

"What Keenan Allen has meant to the Chargers for more than a decade cannot adequately be expressed through mere words," Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a statement Thursday night. "There will only be one Keenan Allen, and we cannot thank him enough for the contributions he has made to our organization both on and off the field."

In January, Allen was the most vocal among the Chargers' stars about wanting to stay in Los Angeles. Mack said he understood that the NFL was a business, Bosa never spoke publicly about his future, and Williams said he wanted to return but didn't do so as emphatically as Allen.

"I don't want to go nowhere else," Allen said then. "I've been here 10 years, like you said, the longest guy on the team, so I'm not looking forward to anything else."

Allen went on to say he would play for only a select few teams if he were traded -- otherwise, he would retire.

"If it did come down to that, adios, amigos," Allen said then with a smile. "I'll get picked up in the offseason or right before the playoffs like them old heads are doing."

But the general manager who drafted Allen, Tom Telesco, is gone, and new general manager Joe Hortiz and coach Jim Harbaugh don't have the same ties to him.

With Allen's departure, Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston are the Chargers' top receivers. Los Angeles has the No. 5 pick in the draft, and considering the loaded receiver class, it seems likely that the Chargers will now look at that position.

ESPN's Kris Rhim contributed to this report.