As we approach NFL free agency, it appears more and more likely that Alshon Jeffery’s career as a Chicago Bear is over.
Chicago Bears’ General Manager Ryan Pace has a lot of decisions he needs to make this offseason. At the top of the list is the quarterback position and if they will jettison Jay Cutler. But right below that in the number two priority is if they should re-sign Alshon Jeffery.
With so much of the roster in flux last season, the Bears decided to give Alshon Jeffery the franchise tag. They never got very close to working out a long-term deal. Jeffery and the Bears agreed to have him play 2016 on the franchise tag and give the team a better idea as to what his value would be. Unfortunately for Jeffery, 2016 didn’t give the Bears a better picture, if anything, it muddled it further.
Jeffery did a better job of staying on the field, although he did battle through several nagging injuries, but it was his four-game suspension for a PED violation that really put his future with the Bears in question.
The Bears reportedly never offered Jeffery more than $12 million per year last year and aren’t looking to move it much more than that with basically just two years guaranteed. Jeffery is going to look for more security than what the Bears appear to be offering.
The alternative to that is that the Bears tag Jeffery for a second consecutive year and work on negotiating a deal while he’s tagged. Even if a deal isn’t worked out, the Bears can punt one more season to see if Kevin White or Cameron Meredith have the makings of a WR1 before they finalize any decisions with Jeffery.
$17.5 million for Alshon Jeffery is a lot of potatoes. Ryan Pace has been very careful with his spending and although this is only a one year commitment, this is a significant chunk of change for a player that hasn’t proven he can stay healthy and is coming off a PED suspension.
If the Bears decide the franchise tag is too pricey, they’ll be forced to let Jeffery test free agency. It’s already been reported by multiple outlets that the Philadelphia Eagles are very interested in Jeffery. If a few teams show interest in Jeffery, his price tag will certainly go north of what Leming is reporting the Bears’ ceiling is.
That price tag listed above is similar to the AJ Green contract the Bengals signed him to in 2015. That was the range Jeffery has been looking at since day one. The Bears simply aren’t going to give him that kind of cabbage. The Bears are in a very difficult position with Jeffery. Paying Jeffery is the last thing Pace wants to do, but leaving the door open to having Meredith and White as your two wide receivers is dangerous. If Meredith doesn’t develop and White continues to struggle with injuries, the Bears will have arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL. When trying to develop a new young quarterback, that’s a problem.
The bottom line, is that it appears to be trending that Pace is willing to roll the dice at this position and see what he has with the rest of the wide receivers on his roster. It’s a major risk, but to keep themselves on solid financial footing, it looks like that’s the direction that the Bears are ready to head. The Bears have two weeks to decide whether or not to tag Jeffery, if they choose not to do that, expect Jeffery to sign elsewhere this offseason.