Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer
One of the biggest questions coming into 2016 for the Bears was the contract status of Alshon Jeffery. General manager Ryan Pace and Jeffery’s agent Tory Dandy went back and forth throughout the off-season on a long term contract.
Pace’s biggest question marks were about Jeffery’s health and availability since Jeffery missed seven games in 2015. Dandy believed his client was a No. 1 wide receiver and his production on the field backed that up.
Both Pace and Jeffery’s agent had solid points, which is why they weren’t able to come to an agreement before the season and Jeffery was hit with the franchise tag.
I’ll admit, I also had questions about Jeffery but he’s answered all of them through six games. Pace needs to re-sign him and pay market value for a No. 1 wide receiver. Jeffery is a top 10 wide receiver in my mind.
One thing of concern with Jeffery is whether he’s playing for money or if his production is a sign of consistent return in the future. We’ve seen it before. A player has a huge season in the final year of his contract, gets paid and his production falls off.
Jeffery is different though and it really has nothing to do with his production on the field. We all know the type of talent he is when he’s healthy and available. What has impressed me the most is his willingness to be a vocal leader and his competitiveness.
Jeffery was pissed after last week’s loss against the Jaguars and voiced his displeasure in the locker room after the game, “We have to score (freaking) touchdowns,” he said. “That’s it. period. Touchdowns win games. See what three points get us?”
Jeffery doubled down on his Sunday comments in his interview with the media on Tuesday, “I just think sometimes you’ve got to be aggressive,” Jeffery told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Sometimes you’ve got to go [for] it. That’s part of football.”
He’s right, on both accounts. Jeffery has always come off as a mild mannered guy who kept to himself, but not this
year. He’s frustrated with losing and he’s frustrated that he’s not getting the ball in the red zone and at the end of games. Winners always want the ball when the game is on the line.
For some, his comments may come off as selfish but I don’t see it that way. I see a guy who knows he can help his team if his quarterback would throw him the ball, even if he’s not wide open because he knows he can win his match up.
There were also reports that Jeffery led walkthroughs late at night in Training Camp because he wanted everyone to be on the same page with a new offensive coordinator. His emergence as a leader hasn’t just come in the last two weeks.
Jeffery had some big questions to answer coming into the year from both Pace and John Fox and I’d say so far he’s answered them with flying colors. He’s even played while not 100 being percent and is still putting up big numbers despite not receiving the targets he’s used to.
Fox wants guys who are competitive, tough and offer strong intangibles. That describes what Jeffery has brought to the table this year.
Letting a talent like Jeffery walk away is a big mistake, especially when the organization doesn’t know what the future has in store for Kevin White, who can’t stay healthy.
I’m not sure if Jeffery wants to be in Chicago past this year, but just based on his frustration and his vocal leadership, I think he does. Jeffery cares about this team. He wants to win and that’s the type of player both Pace and Fox should want in their locker room as they build this thing.
The Bears can’t negotiate with Jeffery until Super Bowl week, but they can at least have back channel communication to express their desire to have him in the long term plans. If Pace hasn’t done so already, he should be on the phone letting Jeffery’s camp know they want to re-sign him and will do whatever it takes to do so.
Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.
Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button to get all the latest Bears Backer articles sent directly to your inbox.