LAKE FOREST – During mini camp it was the top question on the minds of fans and the media. If nothing changes over the next 24 hours, those inquiries will continue to linger into 2017.
That, of course, is whether Alshon Jeffery will sign a long-term deal with the Bears before the 3 PM central time on Friday or if he will have to play next season on his franchise tag deal.
That would be a one-year contract that would pay him $14.559 million for the rest of 2016. Per NFL rules a player must reach a new long-term contract agreement with a team if he has been given the Franchise Tag by July 15th or else take the one year franchise deal that is the average of the top five wide receiver salaries in the league.
So is it going to happen? The odds don’t look great.
While initial optimism was expressed by Bears general manager Ryan Pace after the franchise tag was placed on Jeffery in March, an NFL Network this week says both sides remain far apart on a new contract.
So why the hesitation?
On the Bears end it could be the fact that Jeffery struggled staying healthy in his contract year of 2015. A calf injury caused him problems in the preseason but he was still able to play in the opening.But a bad hamstring would keep him out for seven regular season games and eventually landed him on the Injured Reserve by the end of the season. It was the first time that Jeffery didn’t play in every game since his rookie campaign in 2012.
Yet in his time on the field Jeffery was productive, making 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns, earning his title as the team’s No. 1 receiver. He showed the ability to make plays in a number of places on the field, giving the team a glimpse of a potential star receiver in the making.
But the Bears, as many teams do with injuries, may lean towards letting the season play out even if it means souring the relationship between themselves and Jeffery. With the injuries in the back of their mind the Bears might be hesitant to award the type of money given to the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas ($70 million). Plus the team, barring another setback will get a chance to see 2015 first round pick Kevin White on the field this season after missing all of last year with a shin injury.
So until Friday at 3 PM the chances still exist for a long term deal for Jeffery and the Bears, but don’t hold your breath.