The wide receiver market in free agency could be quite deep this year. NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport and ESPN Bears beat writer Jeff Dickerson reported on Monday that the Chicago Bears will not be using their franchise tag on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The Bears tagged Jeffery last year, which means he would get 120 percent of last year’s salary. He earned $14,599,000 last season, which would result in a franchise tender of $17,518,800 this year. Jeffery has not played a full season since 2014, playing 12 games in 2016 (suspension), and nine games in 2012 (injury), so it is not surprising Chicago would want to avoid that kind of one-year salary.
Jeffery joins a free agency class that will include DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Kenny Britt, and Kenny Stills, and could include Terrelle Pryor if the Cleveland Browns do not use their franchise tag. There is a lot of cap space to spread around, and I imagine some of these players are going to sign significant deals. There are some quality receivers in the draft this year, but the free agency class includes some proven performers, as well as some upside guys who have flashed skills at the NFL level.
The 49ers need a serious option opposite Torrey Smith. They have some young players that are interesting and could develop into decent receivers, but they lack a clear No. 1. Personally, I would rather sign a receiver like Pierre Garcon, who has not missed a game in five years, and has some experience with Kyle Shanahan. Jeffery could bounce back and revert to his 2014 form, but I see someone offering him a bigger salary than is worth risking on someone with questions like this.