Chicago Bears’ Rumors: Alshon Jeffery Likely To Play Under Franchise Tag

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Alshon Jeffery will be in a Chicago Bears uniform when the NFL season starts. Will the Bears’ Pro Bowl receiver be with the team long-term? That is what the Bears want to know. All signs point to Alshon Jeffery betting on himself this season. Is it a smart strategy? If the NFL season were to start today, Alshon Jeffery would suit up for the Chicago Bears under the franchise tag.

Pro Football Talk is reporting that Jeffery is all but certain to play under the franchise tag. The move doesn’t sit well with most people who follow the Bears.

Ideally, the Bears want to have Alshon Jeffery in for the long haul. The NFL is a business, though. The Bears have to make a business decision that makes sense for them. If they cannot come to terms under an agreement with Jeffery, as CSN Chicago has reported, they have no qualms with making the star pass-catcher prove his worth to the team.

A similar strategy was used when quarterback Jay Cutler was up for a new contract after the 2013 season. While Cutler was trying to prove to the Bears that he was worthy of a new deal, he had one of his better statistical years. What also factored in the Bears decision to re-sign Jay Cutler to a seven-year deal was the lack of quarterback talent available on the open market. There is no such luxury for Alshon Jeffery.

Jeffery ended the 2015 season on injured reserve. If he has high contract demands and no one outside of the Bears’ organization knows for certain what the demands are, he has a limited amount of leverage.

The Chicago Bears need Alshon Jeffery and Alshon Jeffery needs the Chicago Bears. Jeffery is a top-10 NFL receiver, who has not yet proven that he can remain healthy an entire season. Even though most of Jeffery’s injuries have been soft tissue injuries, such as a calf or a hamstring pull, being in shape is also a concern.

One of the negatives on Alshon Jeffery when he was entering the NFL draft was his weight, according to Walter Football. Alshon Jeffery has not attended any of the Bears’ offseason programs. This had made contract negotiations contentious at times. It is tough for the Bears to gauge Alshon Jeffery’s commitment to the team.

There is no way for the Bears to be comfortable with Alshon Jeffery’s contract situation as it currently stands. They want him with the rest of his teammates working out, getting comfortable with the new wrinkles in the offensive playbook, and developing chemistry. Jeffery has shown the Bears, on the surface at least, that he is somewhat disinterested in the organized team activities.

OTAs are voluntary in the NFL, but this year is different for the Chicago Bears. The Bears have a new offensive coordinator in Dowell Loggains. They have a receiver in Kevin White who has yet to play a down. Contract situation aside for Alshon Jeffery, this is not the impression he should leave on a young receiver who needs a mentor. It is not what he dealt with during the earlier years of his career.

During Jeffery’s first couple of seasons in the NFL, he had Brandon Marshall helping him develop a work ethic. It is not that Alshon Jeffery owes Kevin White or the Bears anything. This just is not how he was brought into the league.

Jeffery not being present for any of the Bears’ offseason programs may or may not be a sign of good faith on his part. What the Bears want to know is if he truly wants to be with the team. Even if he did not participate in any of the Bears’ offseason workouts, he could be with his teammates.

Jeffery was in Chicago last week to sing the “7th inning stretch” at a Chicago Cubs’ game. There are no reports that place him at the Bears’ training facilities, though.

Alshon Jeffery’s presence, or lack thereof, has to be a factor in why nothing has happened yet. Conversely, the Chicago Bears could have given the Pro Bowl receiver a low-ball offer that he had to refuse. That would explain why he has not been seen around the Bears’ facilities. The Chicago Bears want Alshon Jeffery present and accounted for. How much would it cost? It just seems like the Bears are just going to play out the string with Jeffery signed to the franchise tag tender of $14.6 million.

The Bears can afford to make Alshon Jeffery have a “prove it” season. Can Alshon Jeffery afford to not have a long-term deal with the Chicago Bears?

[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]