Since the Chicago Bears are currently mired in a 1-6 season and Alshon Jeffery is a pending unrestricted free agent playing on a franchise tag, all options are being considered regarding the 26-year-old receiver.
According to Benjamin Allbright as well as Jason La Canfora, the Philadelphia Eagles are working to push through a trade for Jeffery by the November 1st deadline at 4:00 p.m. ET. Preliminary reports say the Eagles would need to “work out a long term deal” and a mid-round pick would come back to the Bears as compensation.
Philadelphia is also rumored to be in on San Francisco 49ers receiver, Torrey Smith, who has never seemed to be a quality fit with head coach Chip Kelly’s offense and the 49ers. The 4-2 Eagles are currently second in the NFC East and are looking for another quality passing target for young quarterback, Carson Wentz.
On the Bears side of things, while it’s been a rough season for the team as a whole, it’s been particularly even more frustrating for Jeffery.
Jeffery has yet to score a touchdown through seven games, and while he’s 13th in the NFL with 520 receiving yards, he’s tied for 29th in receptions at 32. That is mostly due to his 55 targets- good to be tied for just 20th in the league. There was even a time earlier this season, when Jeffery was actually targeted less than the likes of other Bears weapons like Zach Miller, Eddie Royal, and Cameron Meredith.
The fact of the matter is, the Bears have either not been able to get Jeffery the ball enough, or when they have, they’ve forced it to him through poor game planning. Interestingly, the Bears are just 4-7 in games where Jeffery has at least 100 yards over his four-year career. That statistic more points to Jeffery being the only consistent offense and impact player on a less than quality team than something eye-opening though.
And with the team not winning either, Chicago may not have enough leverage to convince Jeffery to stay for the ongoing rebuilding process. The Bears are still in all likelihood one or two years away from true playoff contention or better, while Jeffery is set to enter the prime of his career.
Still, Chicago isn’t in any position to let an impact guy like Jeffery simply walk away or lose value on him. Losing a developed foundational piece and bona fide number one receiver like Jeffery, takes you several steps back. He’s a player that ruins defensive game plans and would be a nice security blanket for Jay Cutler or a young quarterback moving forward.
If the Bears do trade Jeffery- which still seems highly unlikely given the risk of him not signing a long-term deal wherever he goes- a mid-round pick is a drastic lack of compensation. This is a receiver worth at least a second rounder and possibly even first, given his talent. General manager Ryan Pace would be wise to pull the trigger only on something that really gives him a chance at impact players i.e. higher rounds in the draft. You can’t afford to undersell on players like this.
That being said, priority number one should be to sign Jeffery to a long-term deal. Money cures all, after all, and the Bears can still basically offer Jeffery a blank check. The ultimate bet in time here, is that Chicago ponies up to do just that. But, if the Bears can’t sign him long-term, they can still use the franchise tag for a second time, which would lead to a 20-percent increase of his current tagged $14,599,000.
Frankly, he’s worth the price tag and when healthy, is one of the best receivers in the game. From a blistering breakout 2013 season with 1,421 yards, 89 receptions, and seven touchdowns, to 2014, where he fought through various leg injuries to still enjoy a 1,145 yard and 85 reception year, he’s performed well as the lynchpin of this offense. Many have questioned his health and durability in that past, but that lingering doubt has been over-dramatized and shouldn’t have Chicago let him walk considering everything.
The Bears have also possess a different offense with Jeffery. Teams roll coverages towards Jeffery, opening up the field for other players, and when he’s actually targeted, he more often than not comes through with a crucial or spectacular catch. You don’t find pieces that would be the number one option on a Super Bowl-winning team like this on the scrap heap.
Ideally, Jeffery’s here with the Bears to accomplish that goal. Whether he gets that opportunity, remains to be seen.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.