February 15th was the first day NFL teams could apply franchise or transition tag to impending free agents.
The Chicago Bears candidate for the franchise tag for is WR Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery, 52 receptions for 821 yards and 2TDs in 12 games last season, had the franchise tag on him last off-season. If Ryan Pace does do not use it again or lock Jeffery up long-term before free agency starts on March 9th, he is likely headed to another team.
Jeffery did not put up big numbers in 2016. One reason was for testing positive for PED’s, causing him to miss four games. Other reasons were three different starting quarterbacks and back-up QBs failing to get him the ball, especially on deep routes.
This year, the franchise tag is set at approximately $17.5 million dollars, compared to last year’s $14.599. While that may be a big jump for some teams, it’s not so bad for the Bears. With the Bears vast amount of cap space and the NFL cap supposedly going up, tagging Jeffery for another year makes a lot of sense. The deadline to tag a player is 4 p.m. on March 1st. Last offseason, the Bears waited until the day before to use it.
So far this offseason, there has been no reports on the Bears and Jeffery talking about a long-term deal. The only quotes coming from Jeffery this offseason was after the final game of the season saying, “I guarantee the Bears will win the Super Bowl next season.” While some laughed, many embraced it, including Ryan Pace and John Fox. And if he were to drop a quote like that, one could think he wants to play for the Chicago Bears next season.
Jeffery has also decided to do his offseason training in Chicago this season. Usually he goes off to LA before team activity starts up again in April. Could this be a big sign he wants to be in Chicago long-term? Only time will tell.
In the big picture, the Chicago Bears cannot afford to lose Jeffery to free agency. The Bears cannot have Kevin White become their No.1, someone they drafted to hopefully be thay guy but injury has stalled that. Eddie Royal has been unable to stay healthy during his last two seasons in Chicago. Also, his guaranteed money is gone, which may lead to him being released. And Marquess Wilson, who has never stayed healthy his entire NFL career, should be on his way out with his rookie deal expiring. Cameron Meredith is a nice No.2 receiver after quality production last season, 66 receptions 888 yards and 4TDs, but is not close skill-set wise to what Jeffery can do for an offense.
Jeffery needs to be the Bears main focus heading into the franchise tag deadline and the start of the new league year. He is too valuable to this team given the lack of depth at the wide receiver position. The Bears will not find a player like him or even close to him in free agency or the NFL draft. The franchise tag is a lot of money for one player for one year, but if they want to win, Jeffery needs to stay in a Bears uniform.
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