Another staple of the Chicago Bears offense is now departing. Earlier today, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery signed a 1 year, $14 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Mike Glennon signing made the direction of the Bears a bit unclear, failing to meet Jeffery’s price tag indicates that the Bears are not focused on competing any time soon.
It seemed like just yesterday that Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall were terrorizing defenses week after week. Almost exactly two years ago, Marshall was dumped to the Jets in exchange for a measly third round pick. Jeffery, a free agent, parted ways with Chicago today, opting to try out an offense centered around young quarterback Carson Wentz.
After the Bears refused to place the franchise tag on Jeffery, it appeared as if the two parties were cutting ties. Then, reports surfaced claiming that both sides were having contract discussions. Taking into account rumors that suggested other destinations, like the Titans, 49ers, and Vikings, the market for Jeffery in recent weeks had no true front-runner. Yet on day one of free agency, the Eagles struck a deal.
The move clarifies the Bears attitude on this offense: pursue, but don’t overspend. Looking at some of the lucrative deals made today, almost every player who goes off the market this early is the result of teams overspending. So, in essence, the Bears aren’t going out of their way to greatly improve their roster. This is backed up by their failure to ink cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and a couple of other players who they were said to be interested in. ESPN reporter Josina Anderson tweeted this out earlier:
Was just told Stephon Gilmore was a little bit disappointed the
#Bears weren’t “more serious” w/ offer. Just “let the chips fall” after that
Jeffery, a Pro-Bowl selection in 2013, had once been considered a future star to anchor the Bears offense. Unfortunately, poor teams and injuries derailed his future with the Bears, and today his issues in Chicago culminated in a Philadelphia signing. In 2015, he struggled through multiple different leg injuries and missed seven games. In 2012, he had knee surgery and missed six games that season. Yes, Jeffery is an incredibly gifted receiver, but he does pose a risk for the Eagles with his injury history.
Over his 5-year, 63-game span with the Bears, Jeffery dazzled many with his ability to make deep, difficult catches. By far, his best years were 2013 and 2014. 2013 saw Jeffery emerge as a true star, when he racked up 1,421 yards through the air, coming down with seven touchdown grabs. In 2014, his yardage decreased to 1,133, but he recorded 10 touchdowns, highlighting his competence near the goal line.
The last two campaigns were quite disappointing, especially when compared to the previous two. Though his play was stellar in the contests he appeared in, 2015 was ultimately frustrating for Jeffery and the Bears, as the injuries kept him, and for that matter, the Bears, out of a lot of games. 2016 was his first truly unimpressive season, as in 12 games he only tallied 821 yards and a minuscule two touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Eagles fans should be elated at the sound of Jeffery. After all, Jeffery’s struggles this year likely had to do with factors he could not control. There were the multiple QB injuries. The four-game suspension that kept him out of action. The lack of a second wide receiver who could draw coverage. Basically, the list of excuses is long. Based on the majority of his career, if healthy, the Eagles are receiving a prominent WR #1.
As for the Bears, the offense will look much different next year. Right now, the only better-than-average skill player for the Bears seems to be running back Jordan Howard. Though the crystal ball is murky, it seems as if the Bears are holding off on this year. The most likely reasoning is that they are waiting to grab a QB in the draft, on top of testing Glennon’s talents. If either option pans out, Pace will likely build a team around him. Who knows, with all the money the Bears have to spend that likely won’t be divvied out this offseason, Jeffery could return to the Windy City after his one-year contract expires. Of course, this would only come from Pace attempting to build a contender around the Bears’ newfound franchise QB, whoever that may be.
Jeffery’s departure marks a clear end of an era for the Bears. Not only is Cutler gone, but the Bears are allowing their prized WR to walk. So for now, free agency points to another poor Bears team in 2017. However, with the #3 pick in the draft upcoming, and upwards of $65 million in cap space, 2018 and beyond is a potentially successful window of opportunity. But without talents like Jeffery, the players spearheading the efforts those years are question marks.