<
>

Bears' free-agent watch: Alshon Jeffery too valuable to leave

Here is the sixth in an 18-part series examining the Chicago Bears' unrestricted free agents.

Name: Alshon Jeffery

Position: Wide receiver

Age: 25

NFL experience: Four years

2015 salary: $960,157 base salary and $50,000 workout bonus

2015 key statistics: 54 receptions for 807 yards and four touchdowns in nine games.

Probability to return: High

Outlook: Jeffery battled injuries throughout 2015, but he is too talented to not re-sign or franchise. Jeffery is ninth in the NFL in receiving yards (3,361) since 2013. He also tied a Bears’ franchise record with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games in 2015.

“Obviously when Alshon played he was explosive and a playmaker for our offense,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “The previous two seasons he’d been healthy and highly productive. He was frustrated by his injuries. We were frustrated by his injuries. We got to get a better grasp of that. Part of the evaluation of a player is his injuries and his availability. We’ll take that into account.”

Injuries aside, Jeffery is one of the better receivers in the NFC. There is no way the Bears can afford to let him walk away, especially since the club drafted and developed him. The franchise tag is an option if the two sides are unable to hammer out a long-term deal. But unless Jeffery is adamant about eventually leaving Chicago, the prospects of Jeffery agreeing to a lucrative deal (that also protects the Bears to a certain degree) seem reasonable. At the very least, Jeffery ought to be a member of the Bears in 2016.