NFL.com's Insider Ian Rapoport dropped a news bomb in the middle of the night, Tweeting in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Bears will not sign receiver Alshon Jeffery to a franchise tag:
#Bears are not expected to franchise Alshon Jeffery again at > $17M, sources say. A top WR on the market will generate lots of buzz in Indy— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2017
Jeffery played under the franchise tag in 2016, when he earned roughly $14.6 million.
The Bears could still re-sign Jeffery to a longer deal in free agency, but the market on the 27-year-old receiver may climb out of their desired range.
The $17 million franchise tag was an awful lot of salary cap to spend on a guy who has missed 11 games over the last two seasons to injury and a PED suspension that stretched to four games in 2016.
When he was on the field last year, Jeffery turned in his worst stat line since his rookie season, catching only 52 balls for 821 yards and 2 TDs.
Still, his departure would leave a gaping hole in the Bears receiving corps as Cameron Meredith and Kevin White would emerge as the leaders of the group.
Meredith went undrafted out of Illinois State, but he has impressed in his two pro seasons, leading the Bears in receptions (66), targets (96), yards (888) and TDs (4) in 2016.
White was the Bears' first-round pick in 2015 (7th overall) but has played in just four games due to leg issues and has only 19 catches for 187 yards and 0 TDs under his belt.
David Kaplan believes if Jeffery does depart Chicago, it sends a bigger message about the state of the Bears:
If report the @ChicagoBears won't franchise Alshon is true and he's a goner it tells u how awful the situation was that Ryan Pace inherited.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) February 27, 2017
The Alshon report if true also tells u where the Bears believe they are as a franchise.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) February 27, 2017