The Chicago Bears have a decision to make with Alshon Jeffery. The wide receiver played on an expiring contract this season and is now expected to hit the free agent market in search of a high-priced contract. Jeffery was the leading receiver for the Bears this year after the trade of Brandon Marshall and the season-ending injury to Kevin White, but after missing a number of games, it is unclear what his value is moving forward. The Bears could have a tough time getting a contract complete.
At the end of the season, Jeffery made it clear he has no desire to get hit with a franchise tag. The receiver told ESPN that he wants his agent and the Bears to negotiate a long-term deal. However, deciding the worth of that deal is difficult. Jeffery is the best at his position entering free agency, but is he worth the type of deals that Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas signed given injuries? Spotrac.com predicts Jeffery is worth a five-year, $64 million deal which is less than what the receiver market earned in 2015. It would put him behind TY Hilton. General manager Ryan Pace said they will do a lot of evaluating before determining the best contract.
"He was frustrated by his injuries," Pace said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "We were frustrated by his injuries. We've got to get a better grasp of that. Part of the evaluation of a player is his injuries and his availability. We'll take that into account. Going forward, we have a lot of confidence in our sports science team."
In reality, the Bears cannot afford to let Jeffery go, Unless they plan on working with essentially two rookies as their leading wide receivers in 2016, Jeffery needs to return. White will be back in 2016 and presumably healthy. That will give the Bears the duo they intended on having. Yes, the Bears could target Travis Benjamin or Rishard Matthews on a slightly cheaper deal, but bringing back Jeffery is the best option for everyone. Jay Cutler has made it clear he wants all of his offensive weapons back. White made it clear that he believes Jeffery wants to return and that the two of them can be successful.
"They want to get it done," White said, via the Sun-Times. "Al wants to stay here. We want him to stay here. So I think it'll be some good things happening on the field if he stays. We'll do something special."
The Bears have a lot of decisions to make. Matt Forte needs a new contract. Zach Miller wants to return. The defense needs help. The Bears cannot afford to get the contract wrong with Jeffery as it will impact the rest of the offseason.