Deadline Looming For Bears, Alshon Jeffery To Reach Long-Term Deal
By Chris Emma--
(CBS) Friday is the day for the Bears and top receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The July 15 deadline established in the franchise tag parameters is nearing, with no agreement between Jeffery and the Bears' brass. If there is no deal reached by 3 p.m. CT on Friday, Jeffery will play out the 2016 season on the franchise tag, and then the two sides enter the unknown.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has stated on several occasions that the team is actively negotiating with Jeffery's representation, led by Tory Dandy of Relativity Sports.
"We continue to talk with his agency," Pace said when he last spoke in late April. "It's still been cordial and productive."
The Bears and Jeffery still aren't close to a deal. It's not the 11th hour yet, and these talks tend to lead right into the July 15 deadline. Last year, the Cowboys and disgruntled, franchise-tagged receiver Dez Bryant reached a five-year, $70 million deal in the final hour before the deadline on July 15.
It's expected that Jeffery wants a deal in the neighborhood of Bryant's range. Under the franchise tag, Jeffery is paid $14.6 million guaranteed in 2016.
In addition to a financial gap, there have been questions regarding Jeffery's desire of staying in Chicago -- and, in turn, hesitations for the Bears in attempting to lock up their top target. Should the two parties fail to reach an agreement, it's possible that Jeffery could be left disgruntled headed into the season and 2017 offseason.
The Bears are also left wondering whether Jeffery can put together a healthy season. He missed seven games with four different soft-tissue injuries last season, that following two 16-game seasons that produced 174 catches and 17 touchdowns in that span.
When healthy, Jeffery has proved to be an elite talent at receiver. Within these negotiations, the Bears are wanting to find a fair price that factors in the risk of an injury-prone player, while Jeffery is confident he can stay healthy and believes he's worth big money.
That's the divide between the Bears brass and Jeffery's party.
Jeffery, 26, failed to earn a new contract during his "prove-it" 2015 campaign. Now, Jeffery's side is left with only words and promises at the negotiating table.
"It really doesn't matter to me," Jeffery said recently of the ongoing negotiations. "That situation will take care of itself. I'm just here to play football and focus on football."
The Bears do hope to give Jeffery a long-term deal, but he has to earn it first. He put up stellar numbers opposite Brandon Marshall in 2013 and 2014. Now, Jeffery's the No. 1 receiver in Chicago, or so he must prove.
If the Bears want to avoid future without Jeffery, they can lock him up now, but Jeffery's price is currently high. If Jeffery does indeed want a new chapter to his career outside of Chicago, these failing negotiations could lend a path elsewhere.
It remains possible that the Bears and Jeffery could find common ground and reach a long-term deal, though it sure isn't looking likely as of Tuesday afternoon. Either party would have to budge for this impasse to end.
We'll see what happens by Friday.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.
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