2015 Chicago Bears Grades
After trading one of the best receivers in franchise history, the Bears turned over the No. 1 receiver job to Alshon Jeffery. Now heading into the offseason, the Bears will have to decide if they want to sign Jeffery to a long-term contract, franchise tag him or outright let him go.
The decision won’t be easy and tough to decide based off of Jeffery’s 2015 body of work. The 25-year-old Jeffery missed seven games this season after playing in every game the past two seasons. He still finished with 807 yards on 54 receptions and four touchdowns. He was Chicago’s best receiver production-wise and still has a lot of value moving forward.
General Manager Ryan Pace touched on Jeffery’s situation and stated his health could be a big part of the decision. “Part of the evaluation of a player is his injuries and his availability,” Pace said to the media. “We’ll take that into account.”
Jeffery seems to know that’s the case and has said he will have one “hell” of an off-season:
#Bears WR Alshon Jeffery: "I plan on having a hell of an offseason, just work out the soft tissue issues and stuff like that."
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) January 4, 2016
To say it was a frustrating season for Jeffery is an understatement but he wasn’t the only one hit with the injury bug.
Free agent signing Eddie Royal was brought in to compliment the Bears offense and receivers Marquess Wilson and Jeffery. Instead, Royal also missed seven games including five-straight from November to December.
As many hoped he would re-establish is connection with quarterback Jay Cutler from their Denver days, it simply never happened. Royal finished the season with just 37 receptions for 238 yards and a touchdown, making 2015 a disappointing campaign.
Then there was Marquess Wilson who seems to be that guy voted to breakout every year during training camp. The problem for Wilson has been staying healthy in his short career with the Bears. Wilson has suffered an injury in each of his three seasons with the team, missing significant time each year.
With injuries bugging Chicago’s top three options at the position, they had to turn to players like Marc Mariani, Joshua Bellamy, Cameron Meredith and even Deonte Thompson. While the young and inexperienced players got their shot at earning a roster spot for next season, it was still a struggle.
The Bears couldn’t put together any consistency at the position and down the stretch it showed. They entered the final regular season game with Mariani, Bellamy and Meredith as their starters. The three had a total of under 10 combined starts for their careers. Ouch.
Kevin White returns
The season didn’t start off too friendly for the Bears at the position. The team announced that first round pick, Kevin White suffered a shin injury and was played on the Physically Unable to Perform list. White would stay on that list until November, when the Bears officially moved him to season-ending IR.
They got nothing from their rookie in a season where they could have used him, so the frustrations were mounting. To make things worse, the coaching staff remained mum on the whole situation which made it even more frustrating.
The good news is that he was cleared for full offseason activity and should be good for the 2016 season. The 7th round pick can provide a boost for the Bears and might even be ready to fill a bigger role depending on what they decide to do with Jeffery.