Bears Use Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag on Alshon Jeffery

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

With the deadline to franchise players this week on Tuesday, the Bears decided to lock up wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for at least one more season by designating him with the non-exclusive franchise tag. Under the franchise tag Jeffery will earn $14.599 million from the Bears for the 2016 season. Applying the tag to Jeffery will give the Bears until July 15th to work out a long term deal before other teams can make offers.

The fact that the Bears used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jeffery could have ramifications on Jeffery’s future with the Bears. The non-exclusive tag allows any other team to make an offer on Jeffery which the Bears would then have the option to match. If the Bears decline to match the offer they would receive two first-round picks from the team that signs Jeffery.

The Bears may be hoping that some team does make an offer, the Rams or Eagles perhaps, but the cost of two first-round picks is most likely too high for even the teams most desperate for a wide receiver. With last year’s first round pick Kevin White and free agent Eddie Royal finally healthy, the Bears would most likely be satisfied recouping two first round picks for Jeffery.

That isn’t a knock on Jeffery’s ability as he is one of the best wide receivers in the league when on the field. Therein lies the rub, as Jeffery missed seven games last season and six more in his first two seasons. There are also plenty of rumors that Jeffery doesn’t like it in Chicago and will be looking to move to a warm-weather city the minute he is free to choose his destination.

If the Bears are truly trying to win in 2016 than they should match all but the most aggressive offers for Jeffery. He’s a Pro Bowl talent at the position and has proved it over the last three seasons. Despite starting only eight games in 2015, Jeffery still managed 54 catches for 807 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the two seasons before that Jeffery averaged 87 catches for 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns per year despite occasionally shaky QB play. At only 26 years old Jeffery is already one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

On paper the combination of Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal, Marc Mariani, Marquess Wilson, and potential contributions from Josh Bellamy, Cameron Meredith, and a draft pick could give QB Jay Cutler more wide receiver weapons than he’s ever had access to in his Bears career. Jay Cutler and the Bears produced a respectable 21st ranked offense last year despite playing games without multiple opening day starters at quarterback, receiver, tight end, offensive line, and running back.

Give Jay Cutler some legitimate receivers in the scheme Adam Gase implemented last year and the Bears offense could make a huge leap next season. That reason alone could be enough to keep Jeffery for one more year even if a team were to offer the Bears two first round picks.

Of course there is a chance that John Fox and the rest of the Bears brass has seen enough of Jeffery and his fellow wide receivers’ suspect fortitude to realize they don’t have the toughness that Fox requires from his players and that he needs to bring in guys that he trusts will play through minor injuries and suit up for 16 games. My guess is that the Bears match any offer and give Jeffery one more year to prove he can play a full season and see how how productive the potentially explosive Jeffery and White combo can be.

*Apologies if you are reading this for the second time, it was originally posted on Monday but removed due to some technical difficulties.