Should the Bears Have Extended Jeffery?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The deadline to extend free agents on a franchise tag has come and gone with the Bears deciding not to extend WR Alshon Jeffery. The talks between the two sides had gone from doubtful to promising and back to doubtful again over the last few weeks.

I discussed what Jeffery was worth on a per-year contract based on his production over the last few seasons and compared to other players at his position who have received extensions recently. If you don’t feel like clicking the link, his per-game production is somewhere between the $10-$12M that Allen Hurns and Doug Baldwin received and the high-end $14-$15M that Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green have gotten over the last two offseasons. Around $13M per season seemed like a fair value for Jeffery.

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Unfortunately, Jeffery was asking for at least $14M while the Bears best offer was reportedly for $12M. There was also some disagreement over the amount of guaranteed money the Bears were willing to offer. So now the Bears will be paying Jeffery $14.6M this season and are in danger of losing him next offseason for nothing.

Of course the Bears could franchise Jeffery again in 2017, but it would cost them $17.5M which would be the highest salary of any NFL receiver. I can’t see the Bears making that type of commitment regardless of how Jeffery plays this year.

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

Despite the obvious risk of locking up Jeffery long-term, they now risk losing him for nothing but a possible compensatory pick if he walks after the 2016 season. Jeffery only started eight games last year and some of those games missed were with injuries many considered minor which didn’t endear him to HC John Fox, who wants his guys on the field unless they absolutely can’t go. He also decided not to participate in the Bears voluntary workouts this offseason. The Bears obviously were concerned about Jeffery’s willingness to suit up for 16 games and his desire to be  a part of the Bears organization long-term.

Jeffery also decided not to participate in the Bears voluntary workouts this offseason. The Bears obviously were concerned about Jeffery’s willingness to suit up for 16 games and his desire to be  a part of the Bears organization long-term.

There have been plenty of rumors about Jeffery wanting to play in a warm weather city, preferably closer to his home state of South Carolina. Those are all legitimate concerns for the Bears who would have had to shell out significant money to lock up Jeffery for a few more years.

On the flip-side if Jeffery has a monster 2016 season, which he’s certainly capable of,  the Bears will be competing with multiple teams for his services and his price will have jumped from the $13M per that might have locked him up this year to at least $15-$16M per.

Players with Jeffery’s size (6’4, 230), speed (4.48), and ability to make contested catches are few and far between. When healthy, he’s a legit #1 WR and will have plenty of teams vying for his services this offseason. Combined with 2015 1st round pick, Kevin White, the Bears have potentially two #1 type receivers, but maybe only for one season now that the Bears have decided to not extend Jeffery.

Talent is expensive and the Bears don’t have much of it across the roster. Even Jay Cutler is on a below marker contract the next few years, they are playing two RBs on late round rookie deals, and don’t have much money invested in the offensive line or tight end. They have plenty of cap room and have the money to invest in a receiver of Jeffery’s ilk. The fact that they didn’t can only come down to their belief that Jeffery isn’t going to fit what John Fox is looking for in his players.

I think it’s a mistake. Jeffery didn’t miss a game during the 2013-2014 seasons and one season shouldn’t be an inditement on his toughness or willingness to play hurt. Unless Kevin White and another receiver like Royal, Braverman, Marquess Wilson or maybe Bellamy step up big-time, the Bears are letting their most dangerous offensive weapon leave town over a few million per season without an in-house replacement.

Jeffery and White have the potential to be one of the best receiving combinations in the league, but without Jeffery, the Bears receiving core is full of question marks and injury-prone players. If Jeffery has the big season that he’s definitely capable of, what are the chances he comes back to the Bears after they didn’t value him enough for a long-term extension? Most of the league will be beating down his door with deals, which makes me think this will be Jeffery’s last season in Chicago.

If they were willing to offer Jeffery $12M per as rumored, why not bump that a million or two when he is arguably the most talented player on an offense lacking playmakers. When you consider that the Bears still have more salary cap room than almost the whole league, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially if the two sides could have met in the middle for $13M.

2017 will be the third season of the Pace/Fox regime and a year when they will be expected to make the playoffs. Letting their most talented wide receiver leave town isn’t going to help their chances.