What is the Market for an Alshon Jeffery Contract Extension?
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas and the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant scored nearly matching five-year, $70 million contracts last week. Those contracts could very well set the bar for Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who’s entering the last year of his rookie contract.
The contract extensions for a couple of high-profile #1 wide receivers put Alshon and the Bears in an interesting situation, making the 2015 season HUGE for Jeffery. If the Bears were ahead of the curve, you’d think they would try to extend Jeffery before the season, but with a new head coach and a new dynamic to the wide receiver group, I don’t think the Bears are in a position to gamble on Jeffery unless it were a very team-friendly deal.
Jeffery has played Robin to Brandon Marshall‘s Batman in the Chicago Bears offense the last three seasons. Now that Batman has been shipped off to Gotham (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!), Marshall gets to see if he can be a #1 wide receiver. He’ll have his own pupil running alongside, as rookie wide receiver Kevin White will compliment Jeffery and veteran slot receiver Eddie Royal.
Jeffery has put up impressive numbers over the last two seasons. Let’s discount his rookie year when he only started 6 games. Over the last two years, Jeffery has caught 174 passes for 2554 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had a terrific run in 2013 when he rattled off a series of impressive long receptions in a tremendous 2013 campaign:
But what the Bears have to ask is whether Alshon is worth the full boat contract like Bryant and Thomas just cashed. Let’s compare their numbers over the last couple of years.
Jeffery is in the ballpark in catches and yardage, but the touchdowns are way down by comparison. Now that Jay Cutler will be without his red zone security blanket Brandon Marshall, could Jeffery’s TD’s go up in 2015? I think he’ll need to put up more touchdowns to be put in the same tier as the other #1 wide receivers. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming free agent class could also help shape the market.
Free agent wide receivers in the 2016 class include A.J. Green and Julio Jones who are expected to be the next in line for a big payday:
"A.J. Green of the Bengals and Julio Jones of the Falcons are scheduled to be free agents next year. They won’t get that far because if we learned anything from the Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas deals, it’s that teams just don’t let top flight receivers walk. Green, for now, wants to avoid drama. Jones has been quiet about contracts too, for a guy who can demand as much as $15 million per year."
When you consider the free agent class of 2016, Alshon stacks up interestingly with Green and Jones, the presumed top-tier receivers in the 2016 class.
What really hurts Jones and Green compared to Alshon is durability. Both Jones and Green missed time over the last couple of seasons, most notably Jones missing 11 games in 2013. It will be interesting to monitor the status of any preseason contract talks with those two, who could set a more realistic bar for Alshon and the Bears.
As Da Bears Beat points out, a more realistic bar for Jeffery could be the team-friendly deals that were struck with players of comparable stats to Jeffery, Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin.
"Top receivers around the NFL signed to team-friendly contracts were almost all signed with one year left on their deals. This is why players like Jordy Nelson ($9.8M/year, $11.5M guaranteed), Brandon Marshall ($8.7M/year, $9 million guaranteed), and Antonio Brown ($8.4M/year, $8.5 million guaranteed) are making far less money than Wallace, Jackson, and Maclin despite being more consistently productive. Smart teams extend their core players early.If Alshon Jeffery is part of Chicago’s core, he should get paid now. Use the contracts of Randall Cobb ($10M/year, $13M guaranteed) and Jeremy Maclin ($11M/year, $22.5M guaranteed) as baselines and work something out. Jeffery has a more impressive resume than either of those players, but they both signed as unrestricted free agents, so give Jeffery something like Cobb’s salary and Maclin’s guarantees and make both parties happy."
Here’s how the stats line up:
What do you think? What’s the market for Alshon Jeffery? Do you think the Bears should extend him now? What do you think it would take to get a deal done?