Having not opted to use the Franchise Tag a second time on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, the Chicago Bears all but assured that he would reach the open market of free agency next week.
Did they also all but assure he will depart for another team?
Well, if you ask GM Ryan Pace, there’s still a chance the sides will get together on a deal after Jeffery has had the opportunity to see what the market looks like.
If you ask Jeffery, however, it’s a little harder to say.
In a statement released to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Jeffery said that he had no hard feelings toward the Bears, but that he’s ready for “the next chapter.” He went on to say, “I’m looking at the teams that obviously need a wide receiver, but also put me in the best situation to win a championship right now …. I also want to see what other free agents may be attracted to the same teams I’ll be looking at, that can help that goal.”
Money always does at least some of the talking in free agency, but you could understand why Jeffery, who has played on just one winning Bears team (back in his rookie year in 2012), wants to know that wherever he goes will be a competitive team. That’s far from a guarantee right now with the Bears.
I am, perhaps, more intrigued by his comment about wanting to see what other free agents are going to do. Is that a prod to the Bears to make efforts to surround him with better talent? Is it instead about any particular free agents with whom Jeffery wants to play? Or is it just a general statement about not excluding teams with bad records so long as they’re making an effort to improve this offseason?
Obviously we can’t say for sure. But it’s, well, interesting.
We’ll see what the open market holds for the 27-year-old wide receiver with previously-demonstrated game-changing ability, but with nagging injury issues and a PED suspension hanging over his most recent season. The door is not closed just yet.