The Chicago Bears do not plan on franchise tagging their top wide receiver a second time, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, meaning the five-year veteran will test the free agent waters for the first time in his career.
#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
Of the many obstacles GM Ryan Pace has to face this off-season, finding out what to do with their play-making pass-catcher before the franchise tag deadline of March 1 has been one of the more challenging. It’s understandable as to why the Bears refuse to franchise Alshon a second time, being that it would likely mean the Bears would eat upwards of $17 million. After an injury-riddled year in 2015 and yet another incomplete 2016 season due to a four-game suspension, Alshon has played in a total of 21 games the past two seasons. This, mixed with the money Jeffery has reportedly been asking for (around $15 mil a year), gives the Bears reason to be hesitant in inking a long-term deal with him.
Unless Alshon desperately wants to stay in Chicago and is willing to take a home-town discount (at about $12 mil/yr), it’s all but certain that he will be catching passes for another team once the 2017 season begins. And with the Bears scrambling to find an answer at the quarterback position, not having a number one option at WR is a major concern for a team with questionable “weapons”. Kevin White, the Bears’ first round selection with the seventh pick in the 2015 draft, is still a question mark, playing in a total of four games in the last two years combined. Their serviceable tight-end, Zach Miller, can’t stay healthy and isn’t getting any younger at 32-years old. The Bears may have struck gold in their young, fifth round running back Jordan Howard, but he’s not a proven-enough pass catcher.
Chicago has roughly $57 million in cap space with plenty of holes on both sides of the ball to try and fill. It’s been evident in the past two years of the Ryan Pace regime that he’s not fond of throwing a boat-load of cash at one particular player and would much rather create depth in signing mid-grade level free agents who will outplay their contracts. How important is a top receiver to Pace and Co. will be a defining question in his tenure as general manager. With that said, it’s your move, Ryan Pace.
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