On the receiving end: Bears add WR depth with Markus Wheaton as Alshon Jeffery exits with 'pay cut'

On the receiving end: Bears add WR depth with Markus Wheaton as Alshon Jeffery exits with 'pay cut'

Among the Bears’ early moves in Free Agency 2017 was the signing of former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Marcus Wheaton, a speed wideout of considerable promise with 53 catches in 2014 and 44 in 2015 before going on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after three games. The Bears have been search of increased speed and Wheaton, timed at 4.45 in 40-yard dashes, brings that to what is expected to be an extensively reconfigured depth chart in 2017.

Alshon Jeffery probably didn’t plan on a pay cut this year, but that’s kind of what he got for himself. Color him an NFL-wide casualty of a John Fox axiom posted on a Halas Hall corridor: “Ability is important. Dependability is critical.” Jeffery missed seven-plus games in 2015 with injuries, four games to a PED suspension last year and now a big payday this offseason, his second without the long-term deal he sought.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Jeffery on Thursday to a one-year contract worth $14 million, down from the $14.599 million Jeffery was paid under the Bears’ franchise tag. If he can put together a year harkening back to his 2013-14 levels, he’ll make it up next deal. But for now, the Bears look like they knew what the market was, and wasn’t, for a bit of a puzzling player.

[RELATED: Bears add Quintin Demps in rebuild of secondary]

At this point the starting wide receivers for the 2017 Chicago Bears look to be Cameron Meredith (14 games, 66 catches, 888 yards, 4 TD’s) and Kevin White, who’s been in this position now in each of the two previous offseasons before leg injuries did him in. White has been rehabbing his broken leg and showing enough to inspire at least optimism if not full-blown confidence.

“He’s coming along fast,” said GM Ryan Pace last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I still have a lot of confidence in him. He has a lot of confidence in himself. We’re getting daily reports on his progress. I just want to see steady, consistent progress from him. Right now he’s getting his body all in alignment, and he’s feeling good. When I see footage of kind of where he’s at now, I get excited. I just want to see steady improvement.”

“The last two years we haven’t seen a lot. I have a confidence in our doctors and his rehab and his work ethic to get to the point we need to get to.”

Eddie Jackson says the Bears defense has to 'make a statement game' against Saints


Eddie Jackson says the Bears defense has to 'make a statement game' against Saints

The Bears defense gave up a season-high 24 points in the Week 5 loss to the Raiders. The bye week that followed meant they had to stew on that performance for an extra seven days.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson admitted the defense “didn’t hold up” in an interview on the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday morning. It sounds like they are fired up to not have a repeat performance against the Saints.

“We want to get that bad taste out of our mouths,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, we had to wait for a bye week.

“Now we got to make a statement game here at home.”

That statement game will have to come without stud defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Hicks got injured in the loss to the Raiders and is expected to miss significant time.

Jackson talked about what Hicks’ absence will mean to the defense.

“That’s a tough loss for us,” Jackson said. “The style of play Akiem brings is hard to fill. Right now we’re doing a good job holding up with guys coming in and stepping up, but at the end of the day that’s Akiem. His resume speaks for itself. What he does speaks for itself. Film, everything. It’s a tough loss, man. We’re hoping to have him back real soon for playoffs or the end of the season. It really hurts us, but we ride with him. He still comes around. He’s still engaged and meetings and things like that.”

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Will the Bears face the Saints without Drew Brees AND Alvin Kamara?

Will the Bears face the Saints without Drew Brees AND Alvin Kamara?

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees isn't expected to play Sunday at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears as he continues to rehab his thumb injury. Teddy Bridgewater has thrived in his absence, completing over 69% of his passes for 1,089 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions in five games (four starts).

But the engine that makes the Saints offense go is RB Alvin Kamara, who tweaked his knee against the Jaguars Sunday. He was dealing with an ankle injury heading into the game, too, and played his least amount of snaps of any game this season.

New Orleans worked out RB Travaris Cadet Monday which at least signals some concern on the team's part that Kamara may not be able to play.

According to ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett, Kamara's status won't become clear until Thursday or Friday.

The Bears defense is more than capable of stopping New Orleans' offense with or without Kamara in the lineup, but their job will be much easier if the dynamic third-year pro is held out. Through six games this season, Kamara's totaled 373 rushing yards, 276 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

If Kamara can't play Sunday, the Saints will unleash a heavy dose of RB Latavius Murray, who Chicago is very familiar with after facing him five times while he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Murray's run for 214 yards and two touchdowns in his career against Chicago, but doesn't offer nearly the kind of game-changing ability that Kamara possesses. 

We'll have more on Kamara's status as the week progresses.