Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said applying a second franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery wasn’t an option the club wanted to exercise but insisted the team remains a contender to re-sign Jeffery when free agency opens on March 9.
“Like all these things -- you guys know -- these contract negotiations can be complicated,” Pace told reporters at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “We’re at a point right now where this is kind of where it is. Us tagging him two years in a row really wasn’t an option for us. We’ll see how it plays out right now.”
“It was thought out thoroughly obviously. I think sometimes when you can’t come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it’s necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player’s value, and that’s really where we’re at. He’s a good player and we’ll see how it plays out. But I think there are certain instances where testing the market is a necessary part of the process.”
Pace expects to have dialogue with Jeffery’s representative in Indianapolis, but the two sides held no meaningful talks since the end of last season.
Jeffery, 27, was scheduled to earn $14.599 million last year, but he lost four game checks because of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. A second franchise tag would’ve cost the Bears approximately $17.5 million guaranteed in 2017.
Jeffery’s numbers took a hit the past two years because of injuries and suspension, but Jeffery is one of the most productive receivers in team history. He will generate plenty of interest in free agency.
From 2013-14, Jeffery combined for 174 receptions, 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“I think when he’s been out there, I think it’s been positive,” Bears coach John Fox said at the combine. “I think, really it’s just been that consistency of being out there, and I’ll say it’s a partial evaluation and one we’ll just continue evaluating moving forward.
“I’d say he knows us better than anybody else he could potentially go to. I think it’s a positive feeling. With typically these things, it comes down to the market value. It’s like walking into a store right now at this time of year and there’s no price tags. We kind of develop that moving forward. My experience has been that’s a very fluid process.”