As White Struggles Don’t Blame the Bears for Not Signing Jeffery

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions about what appears to be old news but probably won’t be:

“With Markus Wheaton’s latest injury setback, I’ve been reflecting on how few bona fide wins Ryan Pace has enjoyed in free agency. For every Akiem Hicks there is a litany of Antrel Rolles, Eddie Royals and Pernell McPhees. Mike Glennon might have the hottest seat in the NFL right now and there’s little doubt Alshon Jeffery would still be the WR1 on this roster. Now there’s this Roberto Aguayo business. Is this merely attrition/bad luck or a legitimate blind spot for the young GM? — David D., Rogers Park

I’ve always said that free agency is no place to build a foundation for a franchise. It can be a nice place to plug a hole here or there or add a little depth but you’re not going to successfully build a 53-man roster via free agency… As far as Jeffery, he didn’t have a lot of personal interest in returning to the Bears so it’s difficult to place blame on Pace for his departure. Had the Bears topped other offers by a wide margin I suppose it’s possible he’s still with them, but that’s rarely prudent. Keep in mind also that free agency is a two-way street.”

Exactly. Jeffery took a 1 year deal with the Eagles for $14 million, much less than anyone thought he’d get and probably less than the Bears offered long-term.

Let’s be honest. It wouldn’t have been smart for Jeffery to say it but the Bears were going to have to offer him the moon to stay with a losing franchise with a poor quarterback situation. Jeffery couldn’t find a groove here and Philadelphia is a rising franchise with a good, young, somewhat proven quarterback where he could put up numbers for a year and re-enter free agency. Chicago couldn’t offer that at the time and, really, couldn’t offer it now without further demonstrable progress from Mitch Trubisky.

The fact that the Bears couldn’t lock up Jeffery isn’t because Pace didn’t want him or failed to offer him a reasonable amount of money. Former Bears wide receiver Mushin Muhammad once said that Chicago is where wide receivers go to die. Jeffery obviously felt that he didn’t want to get stuck doing that here.

You may wonder why I’m dedicating an entire entry to talking about this now, months after Jeffery decided to go elsewhere. Well, one reason was that I was basically hibernating over the offseason and didn’t get a chance to offer my opinion then. But a better reason is wrapped up conveniently in another question to Biggs:

“Keep hearing that the Bears need Markus Wheaton because they lack a deep threat. Why wouldn’t Kevin White who runs a 4.3 be a deep threat? — @roybal5598

White set the scouting combine on fire before the Bears drafted him seventh overall in 2015 when he ran in 4.35 seconds. But when you consider the term “play speed,” it’s clear that White doesn’t play that fast… There was a notable difference on the field in the season opener last year when you saw Texans rookie wide receiver Will Fuller (who ran a 4.32-second 40 in 2016 at the scouting combine) play very fast. The leg injuries White has suffered could make him a somewhat different player. He didn’t show up in the preseason opener against the Broncos but the same can be said about the majority of the first team offense… Let’s see what White can do this season. Maybe he possesses the speed and route running to consistently make plays downfield. Like I’ve said in previous mailbags, we’re not going to be able to make a judgment on what White is and is not based on what he does in training camp and preseason. Let’s see how he produces when it counts.”

Again, true enough. But I think there’s good reason to doubt that White is going to improve his route running or his play speed quickly, if at all. And that’s if he stays healthy.

If White struggles to reach his potential amongst a scatter shot group of nondescript wide receivers, these questions about letting Jeffery go are going to come up frequently and fans are automatically going to blame the organization for not doing what it takes to keep Jeffery, particularly if he thrives with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.

Should that happen, it will be important to keep the situation in perspective. Jeffery almost certainly didn’t want to be here and there was probably very little that the Bears could reasonably do about it.

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