We’ve been waiting for weeks now on what was a sufficiently difficult and close decision that even the most clued-in pundits had a tough time giving anyone an idea of what was going to happen with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and the Bears.
Would they use the Franchise Tag on him again, despite his injury issues and PED suspension last year? Even at a significant one-year cost of more than $17 million for 2017?
Or would they elect to allow Jeffery to become arguably the best wide receiver on the free agent market, and a hot enough commodity that he’d very possibly be joining a new team?
Well, it looks like the answer is coming out:
#Bears are not expected to franchise Alshon Jeffery again at > $17M, sources say. A top WR on the market will generate lots of buzz in Indy
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2017
— Jeff Dickerson (@DickersonESPN) February 27, 2017
The implications and fallout from the decision – which is officially not due for two more days – will be significant, both for the Bears and the rest of the league.
At his best, the 27-year-old wideout is a number one target, capable of transforming an offense. But is he going to be that guy going forward after a disappointing 2017 season?
Will the Bears still try to extend him before the new league year opens up on March 9?
And, if not, by letting him walk, are the Bears signaling that they do not intend to try to bring in a quarterback who can help them turn an immediate corner and at least take a shot at a competitive season? Taking a $17 million hit on a wide receiver makes a whole lot less sense if you’re going to utilize a bridge quarterback while developing a youngster, for one example.
Still, with John Fox and Ryan Pace undoubtedly eager to rebound from a 3-13 season, and now with even more money available to spend this offseason, it’s conceivable that the Jeffery decision doesn’t signal anything more than a pure evaluation of his projected value to the team in 2017 stacked against the significant cost of the Franchise Tag. It’s not as if a receiver like Jeffery wouldn’t have been a nice security blanket for whatever quarterback the Bears use in 2017. And, strictly speaking, an extension remains possible.
Either way, Jeffery now figures to seek a significant contract in free agency, where lesser wide receivers than Jeffery in recent years have seen paydays of upwards of $40 to $50 million, with $20 million guaranteed. Jeffery will probably get a great deal more. It’s not yet clear whether the Bears will compete for his services in that market.
We’ll have much more on this decision, and the fallout, this week.