The Bears have made Alshon Jeffery the fourth player to receive their franchise designation, a move that unofficially places player and team on the contract clock after initial efforts to reach a long-term contract fell short.
The move positions Jeffery for $14.599 million guaranteed for 2016. The two sides now have until July 15 to agree on a multi-year deal, after which time the collective bargaining agreement permits only a one-year deal until after the current season.
The Bears previously used their franchise tag on Lance Briggs (2007), Matt Forte (2012) and Henry Melton (2013). Briggs played the 2007 season under the tag before agreeing to a six-year deal the following offseason. Forte reached agreement with the Bears on a four-year deal before that year’s deadline. Melton did not come to terms on a long-term deal, was injured early in the 2013 season and left for the Dallas Cowboys the next offseason.
Jeffery was the Bears’ second-round pick in the 2012 draft, acquired when then-GM Phil Emery traded up five slots to ensure the Bears acquiring what Emery regarded as the top wide receiver in a draft that included Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, Bobby Quick and Stephen Hill – all chosen before Jeffery.
[RELATED: NFL Draft could hold QB nuggets for Bears]
Jeffery, who represented the Bears in the 2013 Pro Bowl, missed seven games in 2015 and parts of two others. He finished with 54 receptions for 807 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his nine games. His 89.7 yards per game were eighth in the NFL last season and fourth in Bears single-season history. He also tied a franchise record last season with three-straight 100-yard receiving games and had four such games last year overall.
Jeffery has appeared in 51 games with 44 starts over four seasons, totaling 252 receptions for 3,728 yards (14.8 ypc) and 24 touchdowns. Since 2013, Jeffery ranks ninth in the NFL in receiving yards (3,361) and tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns (21) in 41 games played.
The former South Carolina receiver is one of five players in Bears franchise history with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, accomplishing the feat in 2013 (1,421 yards) and 2014 (1,133 yards). His 1,421 receiving yards in 2013 are second-most in Bears single-season history and helped him earn his first Pro Bowl selection.
His 12 100-yard receiving games are already tied for 12th most in franchise history. Jeffery also holds the top two single-game marks in franchise annals for receiving yards: 249 at Minnesota (12/1/13) and 218 versus New Orleans (10/6/13).