The Bears first announced on Feb. 29 that they placed the franchise tag on Jeffery and revealed on Tuesday that Jeffery officially signed the tag, noting they have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with him. However, that may not be happening in the near future, as Rand Getlin of NFL.com reported on Feb. 29 that a deal isn't likely to be done "anytime soon."
For now, Jeffery is set to make $14.599 million under the tag, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
The 2015 campaign was the final season of Jeffery's original four-year rookie deal worth slightly more than $4.5 million, per Spotrac. The fact that Chicago decided to place the franchise tag on him is a testament to his star power and potential, as the 26-year-old figures to have plenty of productive seasons ahead.
The Bears' decision to tag Jeffery isn't much of a surprise. John Mullin of CSNChicago.com discussed the team's desire to keep the stud wideout near the end of the 2015 campaign:
But indications now are that the Bears are seriously interested in the possibilities of a long-term deal with the highly productive wide receiver who is squarely in his playing prime. If contract numbers cannot be mutually agreed upon, the Bears still can secure Jeffery for one year with their franchise tag, or at least extend their negotiating window without Jeffery going uncovered into free agency next March.
The former South Carolina Gamecock was a 2013 Pro Bowler and tallied a combined 174 receptions for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013 and 2014. He followed that up with an injury-riddled 2015 campaign but still managed to post 807 receiving yards and four touchdowns in nine games. Rich Mayor of the Chicago Tribune put Jeffery's numbers from this past season into context:
On paper, Jeffery is everything a team could ask for in a top-notch pass-catcher. He is a lethal red-zone threat at 6’3” with impressive leaping abilities that allow him to high-point the football in the corner of the end zone. He is also physical enough to deal with press coverage and fast enough to beat corners in one-on-one situations.
He also seems ready to put his injuries behind him, telling Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune: “I plan on having a hell of an offseason. Just work out the soft-tissue issues and stuff like that. I'm ready to get back to playing football.”
Jeffery took on even more importance in the Chicago offense after the Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets following the 2014 season. Not only did he become the No. 1 receiver, but he also had to set a positive example for rookie Kevin White, whom the Bears selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft. (White missed the entire 2015 season with a shin injury).
I don't see why [Jeffery can't be the No. 1]. He makes big plays for us, he knows the offense, he's a big target, and I think more importantly that's the guy he wants to become. He wants to become the No. 1 everyday out here, and he's taking the proper steps. He's always been a quiet guy, but anytime you put on film or see him work in the weight room or on the field, you can't deny that. It inspires the receivers, myself and everyone else to work as hard as he's working.
Jeffery now has the chance to prove Cutler right next season and potentially into the foreseeable future if he can reach a long-term deal with Chicago by mid-July.