The Chicago Bears did not sign Alshon Jeffery to a contract extension in advance of the July 15 deadline. Jeffery is entering his fifth season in the league and is set to play on the franchise tag after the Bears used it on him in February.
All players given the franchise tag for 2016 have to get any long-term contract talks out of the way before that deadline. Once it passes, those who have not signed new deals will have to play on the tag during the upcoming season -- or not at all.
In early June, Jeffery said that it didn’t matter to him whether he played on the tag.
"That situation will take care of itself," Jeffery said." I'm just here to play football. I'm under contract. I'm focused on football and the Bears organization."
Jeffery proved that by signing his one-year, $14.599 million tender and reporting to mandatory minicamps with the team. He skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason program to train by himself in South Florida.
Jeffery, 26, was a second-round pick by the Bears in 2012 and has looked like a No. 1 receiver at times. His biggest issue thus far has been his health. He missed six games as a rookie and last season he played in just nine games before a hamstring injury sent him to injured reserve. Despite his limited playing time, Jeffery managed to produce, with 54 receptions for 807 yards and four touchdowns.
Jeffery’s best season was 2013, when he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games. He will be the top receiver, playing ahead of 2015 first-round pick Kevin White, who did not play last season as a rookie due to a leg injury that required surgery. White's promise along with Jeffery’s injury history could be part of the reason a deal didn’t get done.
But if Jeffery has a huge season in 2016 and experiences no significant injury setbacks, he could make big money when he hits the open market in 2017.