Chicago Bears

Bears free agency analysis: Alshon Jeffery non-deal left an understandable void

Bears free agency analysis: Alshon Jeffery non-deal left an understandable void

This is the first in a series analyzing the Bears' decision-making during the 2017 free-agency period.

The overarching objective in free agency is to fill needs with established NFL players who upgrade at those need areas and remove desperation from draft preparations. For the most part through the opening hours of free agency 2017, the Bears managed to accomplish both, with only one significant might-have-been question/exception.
 
That situation is the Alshon Jeffery conundrum, with the oft-productive wide receiver taking a surprising one-year deal from the Philadelphia Eagles that tops out at $14 million if Jeffery reaches ambitious production targets plus a Pro Bowl, but only $9.75 million coming in the door. The result puts Jeffery alongside Terrelle Pryor as wideouts who dramatically overestimated what their market value, including what their existing teams (Bears, Browns) thought they were worth, and chose to position themselves (again) for a hoped-for career year in 2017.
 
Jeffery's departure takes a playmaker away from an offense that had precious few of them last season. But how much of a loss Jeffery represents, however, is problematic.
 
"Conundrum" was the word choice for a reason.
 
Coach John Fox has a saying placed on the wall of a Halas Hall corridor: "Ability is important. Dependability is crucial." And "dependability" was the crucial issue surrounding Jeffery, who played just two 16-game seasons among his first five, missed seven games with four different injuries in 2015 and then four last year with a four-game PED suspension incurred while in a franchise-tag season.

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And casual analytics are cause for pause. Jeffery has 13 games of 100 or more yards and six more of 90-plus. The Bears are a combined 5-14 in those games. The Bears' quarterback issues explain some of the general problems of the team, and Jeffery can be excused as wanting a change.
 
Notably perhaps, the Bears have been only slightly worse off without Jeffery (6-11, .353 pct.) than with him (26-37, .413 pct.). This was not a Brian Urlacher factor-figure, or even a Jay Cutler one, where the win-loss rate dips precipitously with him sidelined.
 
Jeffery represents a loss. But it's also understandable that neither GM Ryan Pace and the Bears organization, nor the rest of the NFL, was willing to pony up for Jeffery or palpably lament missing on him.

"I wouldn't say I was disappointed, no," Pace said last week, acknowledging that an offer had been made. "Yeah, we talked to Alshon Jeffery. We did and it just didn't work out. But we're moving forward."
 
That moving-forward came in the persons of speed receivers Kendall Wright from Tennessee and Pittsburgh's Markus Wheaton. The roster already had receivers in the Jeffery physical template (Cameron Meredith, Kevin White) and frankly needed the speed more than the size.
 
Because the production and dependability did not warrant giving Jeffery a third straight prove-it year, let alone a long-term deal.

Why Mitch Trubisky has been so impressed by Tarik Cohen

Why Mitch Trubisky has been so impressed by Tarik Cohen

On Sept. 12, 2015, two current Bears were on the same field well before they became NFL prospects and promising pieces of a franchise’s core. 

Tarik Cohen, playing for North Carolina A&T, ran 15 times for 69 yards, putting together an impressive day given the opponent was a Power Five program in North Carolina. And for the Tarheels, a backup quarterback named Mitch Trubisky tagged into a blowout and had a 35-yard touchdown run, and also completed five of seven passes for 37 yards with a touchdown. 

Two years later, Trubisky and Cohen are here in Chicago and have already provided glimpses into what the Bears’ offense could be in the not-too-distant future. 

“Tarik’s always been a beast,” Trubisky said. “I’m glad we’re on the same team. He’s fearless, man.”

Cohen (seven carries 39 yards) and Trubisky (18/25, 166 yards, 1 TD) were the offensive stars of the Bears’ first preseason game. It was the biggest stage Cohen played on after that 2015 game in Chapel Hill, and in it the 5-foot-6, 181 pound rookie showed he belongs in the NFL.

“I’ve always said it’s all about heart,” Trubisky said. “You’ve got a bunch of measurables, but it’s all about heart and that’s what he goes out there and plays with. He’s fearless running the ball and he can take it the distance any given snap.

“It’s tough for me because if I hand it off to him I want to watch him run but I’ve got to carry out my fakes and stuff like that. But he’s a great teammate to have and what I love about him is he always practices hard. No one is outworking him. He’s practicing hard and he loves being out here playing this game.”

Bears edition of 'Who he look like?'

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USA TODAY

Bears edition of 'Who he look like?'

Who says football can't be fun?

Per wide receiver Markus Wheaton's Instagram account, the Bears had quite a bit of fun playing the "Who he look like?" game on Wednesday: 

No mercy on the new guys as Roberto Aguayo was compared to Pedro from "Napoleon Dynamite." Are "Vote for Roberto" T-shirts next? 

Even the most respected veterans don't have a free pass as Kyle Long apparently looks like Marcin Gortat. 

This could be the best one, though. Kevin White as Kel from "Good Burger." 

We'll order up a healthy season for White and many touchdowns.