A Look at Alshon Jeffery's Pending Free Agency and the Options the Bears Hold

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A Look at Alshon Jeffery’s Pending Free Agency and the Options the Bears Hold

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Bears News, Chicago Bears Rumors

After the Chicago Bears 38-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings nearly two weeks ago wrapped up another dreary season,  wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made a bold promise for 2017:

“I guarantee you we’re going to win the Super Bowl next year.”

Since then, a lot has been written about the – eh hem, – probability of such a lofty prediction, given that the Bears just wrapped up their third consecutive losing season (each with double digit losses), but I think that misses a larger point:

Even if the Bears manage to miraculously bounce back in a big way next season, Jeffery’s participation in that rise is not yet clear. In other words, will he even be a part of that “we’re.”

Jeffery is a free-agent-to-be who is still under team control until March 9 when the 2017 league calendar begins, ushering in free agency in the process. What does his future hold then? Well, as discussed at a number of publications (The Athletic, Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and The Washington Post), GM Ryan Pace has a fairly significant decision ahead of him – with respect to his big wide receiver – and it will, in a fairly significant way – help dictate the rest of their offseason.

But before we get to that, let’s back up.

Around this time last year, the Bears were faced with essentially the same problem: Jeffery was a young, talented potential free-agent, in whom the Bears still had team control. And although they tried to extend Jeffery to a long-term contract, they failed, and were forced to use their franchise tag to keep him. The result was a one-year contract worth $14.6 million – or the average of the top five wide receiver salaries at the time.

If the Bears hope to keep Jeffery for another season, they’ll either be forced to slap the franchise tag on him again – something they’re likely hoping to avoid – or they’ll have to extend him to the contract they failed to agree upon last year. Let’s take a quick look at both options, before considering the alternative.

The Bears have until March 1 to decide whether or not they are going to franchise Jeffery, and offer him a 20% raise on top of the $14.6 million he received last year – so roughly $17.5 million. If they are dead-set on avoiding that outcome, they’ll need to ink him to a medium-long term deal, lest he become a free agent. Though, they could still do both by using the franchise tag to give the team until July 15 to work out a multi-year deal. After 3 p.m. on July 15, Jeffery would only be allowed to sign a one-year deal.

At The Athletic, Dan Durkin believes that the Bears stand a chance at getting Jeffery to agree to an extension (potentially even a discounted one) this year, because quite a few things have changed since last offseason. For one, Jeffery was suspended four four games in 2016, after being caught using performance-enhancing drugs. And thanks to a soft-tissue leg injury in 2015, he’s actually only made 21 starts over the past two seasons overall – a far cry from ideal.

But the leverage isn’t entirely in the Bears’ court.

Jeffery has averaged 81 receiving yards per game over the past two years, which is good for seventh best in the NFL and has two 1,000-yard receiving seasons under his belt. If he were to become a free-agent, he would likely become one of the more sought-after wide receivers on the market. In addition, if the Bears manage to get their “quarterback of the future” this offseason (be it through the draft or otherwise), they’re going to want to get him off to a good start – and that requires a good target down the field.

Despite the fact that Jeffery’s production doesn’t often reach its potential, the Bears GM still expects a stronger season from Jeffery in 2017. After all, a revolving door at quarterback and a handful of missed games may have thrown off his ability to get into any sort of rhythm.

So what might a longer-term deal look like?

Durkin believes the Bears might get Jeffery to agree to something between $11-$14 million in average annual value (which would put him among the top-10, but just outside the top-5 in that category) with roughly $30-$40 million guaranteed (putting him among the top four) depending on his market. Frankly, that might be what it takes.

Not only do the Bears have the cap space to accommodate such an addition, Erik Lambert (Fox Sports) points out the team simply doesn’t have many proven options at wide receiver. And again, if they choose to not slap him with the franchise tag again and can’t get a long-term deal done before March 9, Jeffery will be able to negotiate with every team in the league. At that point someone would bite – and the Bears would have to start from scratch.

As of now, the general consensus seems to believe some sort of deal – be it of the short or long term variety – will get done and Jeffery will try his best to deliver on the promise he made at the end of this season.


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Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.

Comments
  1. If the Bears go for an extension I’d hope they could get him on a 3 year deal in that $11-$14 million range like you mentioned. I’m a little worried about going 4 or 5 years with hi just because of his injury history. Though with the cap space the Bears have they should either sign an extension or do the franchise tag. Can’t afford to lose him when the rest of our WR group is also injury prone.

    1. Also, is it just me or does it seem like the Bears have one of, if not the, worst training staff in the NFL. Every year it seems like the Bears are near the top of the league when it come to players/starters injured or on the IR. Maybe I just notice it more with the Bears since I pay the most attention to them but damn does it seem like the injury bug has hurt the Bear way more than average the last few years.

      1. Yes that is a situation where no one ever questions the training staff or the strength and conditioning coaches. Flexibility is a problem often especially in training camp. I wonder if their dietician needs to be questioned as well. Poor diet=poor body health=INJURY. Its one of many underlying causes of injury but not the only one. Good point about the trainers & staff. I always forget about that for awhile

    2. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the years, just more focused on when the guaranteed money is paid out. I’m in the same boat with you, $11-$14million/year, with the $ paid out within the first 2-3 years. Bears should not be in the business of letting stud 26 year old players walk, but we’ll see what they decide. One of the biggest choices facing them.

  2. I know some are going to think that this a dumb idea but I would sign Alshon to a deal with a massively front loaded deal next season and use the massive amount of cap space we have next season to sign few very good FA’s to front loaded deals and save the cap space for future season and just bite the bullet and accept another bad season.

    I think best case scenario is we go abott 8-8 or maybe stay somewhat competitive for a wildcard spot if everything goes right but I’m more pessimistic with the team, because it needs to stack a few more good drafts together.

    If we aren’t going to be good then I say go my route and set yourself in a good cap position for the future when we are competitive and guarantee another higher draft pick for next year. I know this won’t happen but I think it would be a smart thing to do to set up the team for sustainable long-term success. I really want the Bears to Draft that Sam Darnold kid from USC next season, but we’d most likely have to one of the worst teams in the league again next year.

      1. I believe it depends on the structure of the contract. Any signing bonus for the contract is spread out evenly throughout the length of the contract, but base salaries are not, and can fluctuate as stated in the deal (not 100% certain).

      2. I’m pretty sure they can shift cap space.

        I mean its dangerous to front load contracts because players could lose motivation once they get paid big, so it would have to be the right guys you do it with.

  3. I have mixed feelings about Alshon returning. My gut tells me he will always underachieve, but I don’t know what they do if they don’t bring him back. They’d either have to roll the dice on someone else or go into next season with a huge question mark at receiver. It’s not like there will be a sure thing star receiver available, and even if there were there would be no guarantee the Bears would get him. Part of me thinks it’s better to give Jeffrey the $17 mill franchise than $30 mill guaranteed, but then they’d be in this same position next year. I think the best thing is probably to give him the $30+ mill guaranteed, although I would push for performances bonuses in exchange for less guaranteed money if I were the Bears.

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