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NFL AM: Impasse Between Bears and Alshon Jeffery Hits Critical Mass

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The deadline to sign franchise tagged players to long term contracts is just a week away and in a few spots around the NFL, there is about to be a definitive push to get things done.

While the Von Miller saga has stolen the headlines since the franchise tag was levied on the Super Bowl MVP, there’s another similar saga being waged more quietly in the Windy City. The Bears and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery have yet to come to terms on a long-term deal and the coming week is their last chance to do so before Jeffery will be forced to play the season under the tag.

The impasse between the two sides stems from a stark difference in opinion of Jeffery’s value. The Bears were hoping, after tagging their 2012 second round pick, that the one-year tag would cost them something in the neighborhood of $10 million per year and were looking to give Jeffery a similar average annual value on a long term deal. Instead, Jeffery is set to make $14.6 million if he plays the 2016 season under the tag, and after watching Doug Baldwin and Keenan Allen cash in on long term deals both valued at over $11 million per season, there is little chance Jeffery accepts anything less than $12 million per year on his next deal.

One thing that might make the Bears hesitant to commit long-term to Jeffery, as the Seahawks did Baldwin and the Chargers did Allen, is the way that last season went for the four-year veteran. After two outstanding back-to-back seasons, Jeffery suffered through an injury-plagued 2015 campaign that saw him miss seven games over three stints. His numbers were still solid overall when he did play, but most of his production came in the first half of the season. He had just one 100-yard receiving game after Week 8 and went down again in Week 14 before missing the final two games of the season.

All reports have Jeffery healthy entering the 2016 season and ready to get back to being the star caliber player and top target for Jay Cutler that allowed the team to jettison Brandon Marshall before last season. But it seems the Bears want Jeffery to prove he deserves to be paid among the Top 5 receivers in the league before they hand him a long term deal that makes that so.

It’s a risk for both sides to let this go through on a one-year deal. Chicago risks a stellar season from Jeffery that will leave them with little option but to watch him walk for an even bigger deal than they could’ve had him at this offseason. For Jeffery, the risk is in the short term non-guaranteed nature of the franchise tag. Another injury this year could severely handicap his ability to cash in long-term on a big money deal any time soon.

But as they say, deadlines make deals and those risks could bring the two sides to the table to hammer something out in the next seven days. It’s just not looking likely right now.

Here’s a check-in on the other franchise-tagged players and where they stand in their contracts.

  • Von Miller, Denver Broncos – Miller has expressed repeatedly that he has no interest in playing the season under the franchise tag, but he and the Broncos remain very far apart on the deal. However, that’s nothing we haven’t seen before in these situations and Denver knows what Miller is worth to the team, which may separate them from the Bears and Jeffery. The guess here is that a long-term agreement is reached just minutes before next week’s deadline.
  • Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins – Here’s a situation that’s much more similar to what’s going in Chicago. The Redskins are set to pay Cousins much more than they believe he’s worth annually under the tag, but they’re still not sure enough about his viability long-term to guarantee him any more. That combination of factors makes it unlikely that Cousins gets a long-term deal in the next week, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
  • Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets  There seems to be little hope of a resolution between Wilkerson and the Jets, who have not talked contract recently and neither side seems inclined to change that. New York is satisfied where things stand with its vaunted defensive line and doesn’t feel a need to complicate that with long term dealings.
  • Trumaine Johnson, St. Louis Rams – Though the Rams made the bold move of choosing Johnson over Janoris Jenkins at the franchise tag deadline, they’ve yet to come to an agreement on a long-term deal and the chances of that changing have been described as a “long-shot” so Johnson looks like another who will play out 2016 on a one-year franchise tender.
  • Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – Similar circumstances have clouded the air in Kansas City, where star safety Eric Berry is looking at a year under the franchise tag. But the nature of the relationship between the two sides here is important. The Chiefs organization has the utmost respect for Berry and all he’s been through, and Berry has a mutual understanding of the organization’s commitment to him. Guess here is that a deal gets done.
  • Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens – Tucker is likewise a valuable member of the Baltimore Ravens organization and he’s quite aware of his value, as are the Ravens of his value to them. This is likely to be an instance of a deadline making the deal, and the assumption is it gets done.
  • Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills – Glenn signed a five-year, $65 million extension with Buffalo in May making him the only 2016 franchise tagged player to sign long-term so far.

About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys