The probability that Alshon Jeffery plays next season in another uniform just got higher.
Per Nfl.com’s Ian Rapaport, the Chicago Bears have opted not to tag Jeffery, meaning that he will now test the market as an unrestricted free agent.
#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
While this does not mean that Jeffery absolutely will not return to the Bears—he can still sign with the team as a free agent—the soon-to-be-6th year wide receiver out of South Carolina is expected to be a highly sought-after commodity this offseason, being clearly the best available receiver.
For the Bears to retain his services for the future, they would likely have to pay him upwards of $17 million a year, with somewhere near $30 million guaranteed, over five years, which is a hefty investment for a player whose availability has been in doubt at times.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) February 27, 2017
However, the Bears will have more than $60 million worth of cap space with which to sign Jeffery and still make a run at a top free agent defensive player if they chose to, assuming they cut Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal, and Lamarr Houston somewhere down the line.
Furthermore, as I mentioned before, the pass-catching group as a whole without Jeffery looks very thin, with the oft-injured, still largely unknown Kevin White likely set to become the team’s #1 receiver. So I’d be surprised if negotiations with Jeffery were over.
That said, it’s probably about time for fans to start saying their goodbyes to Jeffery. Given the trust issues that have been built up with Jeffery as well as my confidence in the Bears’ desire to want to spend big dollars to keep him around, his tenure in Chicago could very well be over.
But hey…stranger things have happened, right? After all, who’d have thought Cutler would’ve been paid the way he was at the end of the 2013 season?