Alshon Jeffery was not the first round draft choice that Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were in 2010, so Bears general manager Ryan Pace doesn't have the fifth-year option the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos employed with their wideouts. That means the 2012 second rounder's upcoming fourth season is the final year on his rookie deal, with unrestricted free agency, or a franchise tag, looming next spring.
Bryant and Thomas signed matching five-year, $70 million contracts Wednesday minutes before the deadline expired for the franchise tag to automatically kick in, if they decided to play for it. The only reported differences were Bryant receiving $45 million in guaranteed money, vs. $43.5 for Thomas.
It's generally believed that if Jeffery is as productive in his first year under the new regime as he's been the past two under the former, Pace and company will be willing to start addressing his future late in the season, if Jeffery's camp is open to it. Should that scenario play out, judging by a numbers comparison between Jeffery's first three seasons and those of Bryant and Thomas, Pace may have to consider keeping pace with the bar set Wednesday.
|Year||Dez Bryant||Demaryius Thomas||Alshon Jeffery|
|(rec-yds, TD)||(rec-yds, TD)||(rec-yds, TD)|
|Rookie:||45-561, 6 TD||22-283, 2 TD||24-367, 3 TD|
|Year 2:||63-928, 9 TD||32-551, 4 TD||89-1,421, 7 TD|
|Year 3:||92-1,382, 12 TD||94-1.434, 10 TD||85-1,133, 10 TD|
|3-year totals:||200-2,871, 27 TD||148-2,268, 16 TD||198-2,921, 21 TD|
|Year 4:||93-1,233, 13 TD||92-1,430, 14 TD||???? ???? ????|
The Indianapolis Colts will run into the same situation with 2012 third round pick T.Y. Hilton, who's the only receiver in that class who's outproduced Jeffery these past three seasons (214-3,289, 19 TDs).
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Here's a list, in order, of the other first and second round picks from 2012 that Jeffery and Hilton have outperformed, with only the Tennessee Titans' Kendall Wright coming close. The fifth-year options on his deal, and that of Arizona's Michael Floyd (whom they're looking to trade), were picked up earlier this year:
|Player (TEAM)||Rec-yards, TD|
|Justin Blackmon (JAX)||93-1,280, 6 TD|
|Michael Floyd (ARZ)||157-2,444, 13 TD|
|Kendall Wright (TEN)||215-2,420, 12 TD|
|A.J. Jenkins (SF/KC/DAL)||17-223, 0 TD|
|Brian Quick (STL)||54-283, 7 TD|
|Stephen Hill (NYJ/CAR)||45-594, 4 TD|
|ALSHON JEFFERY (CHI)||198-2,92, 21 TD|
|Ryan Broyles (DET)||32-420, 2 TD|
|Rueben Randle (NYG)||131-1,847, 12 TD|
If Jeffery continues his production from the last two campaigns and gets similar ball distribution now working with Kevin White and Eddie Royal, along with Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, he should hear the cash register ringing. And leave Pace pulling out his salary cap calculator.