Chargers trade Keenan Allen to Chicago Bears for a fourth-round pick

The Chargers traded their longest-tenured player Thursday night, moving Keenan Allen to Chicago in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

Trying to free salary-cap space, the team approached the wide receiver about taking a pay cut, according to a person familiar with the situation not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. When Allen refused, the Chargers decided to deal him, with the Bears benefiting.

In 11 seasons, Allen, who turns 32 in April, caught 904 passes for 10,530 yards and 59 touchdowns.

His departure means quarterback Justin Herbert loses his favorite, most reliable target.

The Chargers also cut wide receiver Mike Williams this week and allowed running back Austin Ekeler to depart via free agency. So Herbert will enter next season with a vastly different looking supporting cast.

The team entered this week some $25 million over the salary cap, the release of Williams necessary to reach compliance by a 1 p.m. PST deadline Wednesday.

The Chargers then reworked the contracts of edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa to open more space, both players agreeing to take pay cuts, according to multiple reports.

Allen was unwilling to do so, and new Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz made among the boldest of moves possible.

Allen was a third-round pick — No. 76 overall — in 2013, coming out of Cal. During his time with the Chargers he was named to the Pro Bowl six times.

He’s the franchise’s all-time leading wide receiver in yards and catches, trailing only tight end Antonio Gates overall.

Allen has topped 1,000 yards and 100 receptions in a single season five times each and is coming off his most productive year yet, despite missing the final four games because of a heel injury.

He finished 2023 with 1,243 yards on 108 catches, playing most of the season without Williams, the Chargers’ No. 2 receiver who suffered a torn knee ligament in late September.

Following the season, Allen said he wanted to finish his career with the Chargers and balked at the notion of joining another team. In the past, he has hinted that he might retire as opposed to playing elsewhere.

Allen’s game — based on superior technique and route running — has aged well at the NFL level. He isn’t a player reliant on elite speed, instead using body positioning and close-quarters maneuvering.

After the Chargers moved to Los Angeles, Allen established himself as one of the league’s most reliable weapons. He missed only two games because of health from 2017-2021.

During that time, he went from being Philip Rivers’ favorite target to Herbert’s preferred destination. Allen’s prowess on third down has been a staple of the Chargers’ offense for years.

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