By Chris Emma–
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CBS) — Set to become the top free agent receiver on the open market, Alshon Jeffery is prepared for what he’s calling a next chapter.
Suitors are preparing to pitch Jeffery, with ESPN’s Josina Anderson reporting that the Eagles, Titans and 49ers are among teams that would pursue Jeffery. It’s worth noting that the Eagles and Titans are both reportedly in trade talks for Saints receiver Brandon Cooks.
The Bears have elected not to tender the franchise tag for the 27-year-old Jeffery, with general manager Ryan Pace explaining that the team preferred to let him find his market value instead of paying him more than $17 million in 2017.
“I don’t have any hard feeling towards the Bears; it’s all love,” Jeffery told Anderson. “Whatever the next chapter is, I’m ready for it. 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.”
Jeffery was tendered the franchise tag last offseason, essentially asked by the Bears to prove his worth. He posted 52 receptions for 821 yards and two touchdowns last season, missing four games due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension.
Applying the franchise tag for a second straight offseason wasn’t a realistic avenue for the Bears, Pace said Wednesday. He has maintained a dialogue with Jeffery’s representatives, led by Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, and they plan to continue discussions in Indianapolis this week.
“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,” Pace said. “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.”
While the Bears are hoping they can retain Jeffery, the likelihood appears that he’s moving on. Pace and his team will likely have to turn toward their contingency plans.