Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Wednesday the Bears are expected to retain Jeffery through one of the two avenues. General manager Ryan Pace confirmed talks are ongoing, according to the team, and said tagging the wideout is "an option." Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune passed along further remarks from the GM on the issue.
"I sense he wants to be here," Pace said.
Jeffery battled nagging injury issues throughout the 2015 season that limited him to just nine games. Despite the ailments, he still managed to rack up 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns.
Those numbers were down quite a bit from his previous two years. He caught 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, which established him as one of the game's top targets.
He admitted his comfort level in Chicago after his often frustrating 2015 ended, but he didn't provide any guarantees about his future, as Campbell noted in early January.
"I love the city of Chicago," Jeffery said. "But I'll let my agent and Mr. Pace deal with that situation."
Despite the down season, Jeffery will surely be looking for a sizable increase in salary for 2016 and beyond. He made less than $1 million in base salary last season, according to Spotrac.
Calvin Johnson, whose future remains in limbo, is currently projected to have the highest cap hit among receivers in 2014 at a shade over $24 million, per Spotrac. The 10th-ranked wideout, Mike Wallace of the Minnesota Vikings, checks in at $11.5 million.
Jeffery would probably slot in somewhere between those two numbers if the sides are able to reach a long-term agreement. If that doesn't happen, the projected cap hit for using the franchise tag on a wide receiver is $14.4 million, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, who cited estimated cap numbers from NFL Media's Albert Breer.
The Bears do have a promising young receiver in Kevin White, who they selected seventh overall in 2015. However, he missed his entire rookie year due to a leg injury, and he'll need to get worked back into the mix slowly, which means the Bears will need a true top target like Jeffery for at least another season.
While signing him to an extension would give Chicago more stability at the position for the foreseeable future, Spotrac lists the team as having nearly $60 million in cap space. That leaves plenty of room to tag the star receiver if necessary.
It sounds like Jeffery will be with the Bears next season no matter the circumstance. That's great news for quarterback Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense.
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