When news hit the wire that Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended by the league for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances, the first thought to enter my head was, “what kind of impact will this have on offseason contract negotiations?”
The short answer to that question is: nothing good for Jeffery, but a mixed bag for the Bears.
Jeffery, who played hardball this past offseason and made it difficult for the Bears to sign him long term, elected to sign and play under the franchise tender that the Bears placed on him when negotiations broke down.
That stance amounted to Jeffery betting on himself, that he could go out and remain healthy for a full season and produce at a level commensurate to a contract befitting a Top 5 wide receiver.
While Jeffery has been mostly healthy and has played in all nine games this season for the Bears, his numbers have hardly reflected his talent in comparison to the rest of the league.
Jeffery ranks 20th in receiving yards, 44th in receptions, and is tied with dozens of other players with just one touchdown reception on the season.
A big reason for the drop in Jeffery’s statistical production was due to Jay Cutler missing so much time with a thumb injury, but potential suitors in free agency won’t allow Jeffery and his agent to use that as a bargaining chip.
The fact that Jeffery will now miss four games and be unable to complete a full season is just another red flag on the resume of a player who has suffered a variety of soft-tissue injuries.
While the majority of the leverage in this offseason’s contract negotiations seems to be tilted toward the Bears, general manager Ryan Pace must now ask himself how badly the team still wants the receiver.
If Jeffery can’t stay healthy for a full season, how much is the team willing to pay him? If Jeffery is “accidentally” taking medications that are against league policy, how much is the team willing to give a receiver who misses a quarter of the season for disciplinary reasons?
By all accounts, Jeffery is seen as a good guy, a loyal teammate, and a model citizen, which is why teammates have had his back in this latest setback. But the red flags are hard to ignore.
Still, if the Bears can get Jeffery under contract at the right price, they need to do it. There aren’t a whole lot of players of his caliber available and replacing him would be a difficult thing to do.