Wide receiver Keenan Allen being traded from Chargers to Bears for a fourth-round pick

FILE - Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) rushes past Detroit Lions linebacker Jack Campbell (46) during an NFL football game Sunday, November 12, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. The Chicago Bears are acquiring wide receiver Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers for a fourth-round pick, people informed of the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

FILE – Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) rushes past Detroit Lions linebacker Jack Campbell (46) during an NFL football game Sunday, November 12, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. The Chicago Bears are acquiring wide receiver Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers for a fourth-round pick, people informed of the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

Keenan Allen said at the end of the Los Angeles Chargers’ disappointing 2023 season that he didn’t want to play anywhere else.

Fast forward to Thursday night, and the team’s longest-tenured player was traded to the Chicago Bears for a fourth-round pick.

Allen is going into the final season of a four-year extension he signed in 2020. The veteran wide receiver declined to take a pay cut or restructure his contract, according to a person familiar with the trade.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person isn’t at liberty to publicly discuss personnel moves.

Allen’s salary cap number for the upcoming season is $34.7 million, including a $5 million roster bonus due on Sunday. He restructured his contract last season, with most of his base salary converted to a roster bonus to give the Chargers more flexibility.

“What Keenan Allen has meant to the Chargers for more than a decade cannot adequately be expressed through mere words,” Chargers President of Football Operations John Spanos said in a statement. “Keenan’s impact lives in the hearts of our fans, in the communities which he has served and amongst the countless teammates who have formed a brotherhood with him. 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.”

The Chargers were $21 million over the salary cap before the start of free agency on Wednesday, and they responded with moves involving the top four players on their roster with the biggest salary cap numbers. They released wide receiver Mike Williams while linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack agreed to restructure their contracts.

Allen said during the team’s final regular-season availability that he could see himself playing for another team if there was a chance to win.

The Bears went 7-10 in their third straight losing season and haven’t finished above .500 since going 12-4 to capture the NFC North championship in 2018. But they sent a strong signal that they’re ready to start winning with their second trade for a star receiver in as many years.

They acquired DJ Moore from Carolina for the No. 1 pick in 2023. He set career highs with 96 receptions, 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns.

“We’re extremely excited to add Keenan to our team,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said in a statement. “His body of work speaks for itself and we look forward to him elevating our offense.”

Allen is one piece of what has been a busy offseason retailoring the offense. Shane Waldron was hired as offensive coordinator while running back D’Andre Swift and tight end Gerald Everett were added in free agency.

Allen has spent his entire 11-year career with the Chargers. He is second in franchise history in receptions (904) and receiving yards (10,530).

Since entering the league in 2013, Allen is third in receptions, sixth in yards and tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns with 59.

Allen was leading the NFL in receptions through Week 14 last season, but he missed the final four games due to an ankle injury. He finished sixth with 108 receptions and 11th in yards with 1,243.

He has three games with 15 or more receptions over his career, the most in NFL history. That includes an 18-catch, 215-yard day last season in a Sept. 24 win at Minnesota.

“He’s about as tough as it gets. The team leader, the player, the teammate, he does everything for us,” quarterback Justin Herbert said of Allen last season. “Just being able to see him attack day in and day out, the way he goes about practice, he’s a true professional.”

New coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz now have to figure out who will become Herbert’s top target in a receiving room currently bereft of quality and experience. Joshua Palmer is going into his fourth season and has 22 starts. Quentin Johnston, last year’s first-round pick, struggled as a rookie.

The Chargers will have the fifth overall selection in next month’s draft, putting them in position to grab one of the top names in a deep pool of receivers.

The question now is who will be throwing to Allen and Moore? The Bears have to decide if they’ll stick with Justin Fields or take Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick.

Fields, drafted 11th overall in 2021 by the Bears under former general manager Ryan Pace, struggled as a rookie with former coach Matt Nagy. He has not developed as a passer the way the team hoped the past two years under coach Matt Eberflus and GM Ryan Poles.

Allen has eclipsed 100 catches five times in his career, one of six players in league history to accomplish that feat.

By adding a fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall) from the Bears, the Chargers will have nine draft picks in next month’s NFL draft.

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AP sports writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago and AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this story.

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