The Chicago Bears have a lot of work to do this offseason to be a legitimate contender in the NFC North, and the first step is to hold on to the impact players already on their roster.
Alshon Jeffery is set to become an unrestricted free agent and will generate a lot of interest. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound receiver had breakout seasons in 2013 and 2014 with 174 receptions for 2,554 over those two seasons. Jeffery played in just nine games in 2015 due to injury but still logged 54 receptions for 807 yards.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been thought to be a big player in the Jeffery sweepstakes with their young and inconsistent receiving corps. Jordan Matthews has yet to have a 1,000-yard season while Nelson Agholor only caught 23 passes in his rookie year. With inconsistent quarterback play and an ineffective running game, a definitive No. 1 receiver could’ve gone a long way towards righting the ship.
The Detroit Lions were likely also interested since the abrupt retirement of Calvin Johnson. The Lions’ offense took a huge step forward after the mid-season firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and promotion of Jim Bob Cooter. You have to believe that if Johnson does indeed hang up the cleats, they’ll be looking to make a splash in free agency or the draft. Otherwise they’ll be taking another step back just two years after a playoff berth.
Holding on to Jeffery won’t solve all of the Bears’ problems, but it’s definitely the right move. The easiest way to stunt the growth of an organization is letting your young, talented players walk out the door after their rookie contract expires. Tailback Matt Forte won’t be returning which means they still have a lot of work to do, but either re-signing or applying the franchise tag to Jeffery will help prevent the offense from crumbling completely.