All signs might be pointing toward Alshon Jeffery’s departure from Chicago, but it isn’t a sure thing just yet.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that the Bears aren’t out of the market for Jeffery’s services even though they reportedly decided not to apply the franchise tag to him.
Biggs opens the door for a Jeffery return slightly by recalling a tactic used by former general manager Jerry Angelo, who allowed players such as Lance Briggs, Olin Kreutz, Israel Idonije, and Bernard Berrian to test the free agent waters to gauge their value on the open market. The Bears were able to retain Briggs, Kreutz, and Idonije, with Briggs and Kreutz receiving mutli-year deals to come back to Chicago.
Berrian was the one who got away, turning a career year in 2007 (71 catches, 951 yards, 5 touchdowns) into a six-year contract worth $42 million ($16 million guaranteed). But after a productive first season (964 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns), Berrian faded in each of the following three years as he grabbed a total of 90 passes for 961 yards and four touchdowns in 35 games.
Jeffery could be one who gets away, and the Bears should be planning as if it’s a distinct possibility because they aren’t the only team in the market for a pass-catching target with upside. Even if Jeffery returns, the Bears should plan on adding another reliable receiver because Cameron Meredith is still relatively unproven (despite grading out as a superb route runner) and Kevin White has been unavailable for 28 of 32 NFL games since being chosen with the seventh pick in the 2015 draft.
The talent pool at the receiver position is rather shallow right now. Couple that with the Bears being in the market to bring in a young quarterback, allowing Jeffery to walk away for nothing would be counterproductive to developing a quarterback and putting a productive offense on the field.
The Bears shouldn’t be out of the running to bring Jeffery back on a multi-year deal, even though it is bound to get expensive.