Alshon Jeffery made the news on Monday, getting hit with a four-game suspension without pay for abusing the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Currently playing on a $14.6 million franchise tag, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Jeffery’s suspension sways the Bears from making a serious run at re-signing the former second-round pick. For some teams like the Bengals’ division rival Steelers and Browns as well as the Jaguars, a suspension of any sort poses as a serious risk.
Guys like Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant and Justin Blackmon, while talented, haven’t been able to stay on the field and, as a result, wouldn’t be worth paying big money.
Disclaimer: This post is obviously a bit preemptive, but it's a topic which has been on my mind for a while, as I've been a fan of the former South Carolina wideout for quite some time. There's still a good chance the receiver stays in Chicago, which means it's possible Jeffery might not even become a free agent until the next presidential election. That said, Jeffery's suspension and early Draft talks just brought this topic to mind, and I couldn't ignore the possibility. To those hardcore fans who don't want any Draft talk until 2017, I understand, and I apologize for the early free agency/draft talk.
Per NFL Network, Chicago reportedly tried to lock up Jeffery to a contract worth about $11 million/year last year, and when Jeffery claimed he wanted top receiver money, he signed a franchise tender. Now "embarrassed" after the suspension, perhaps the receiver looks for a fresh start.
Cincinnati, as evidenced, could be a great spot for the superstar wideout. Already boasting a consistent quarterback in Andy Dalton (something Jeffery has never had), the best wide receiver in the NFL in A.J. Green and a consensus top-five tight end in Tyler Eifert (when healthy), the Bengals would be a sweet landing spot for the Bear. We’ve already seen 30-year-old Brandon LaFell turn around his career in Cincinnati, while former Bengals Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu — while still quality players — have been inconsistent and, at least at this point, haven’t lived up to their billing as a potential number one (Jones) or number two (Sanu) wideout for their respective teams.
Moving to Cincinnati would be an insanely beneficial career move for Jeffery, as it would present him the possibility of single-coverage for the duration of his contract and a serious chance at winning football games. (The Bengals may currently be struggling, but they still have quality personnel.)
Adding Jeffery would be great for the Bengals, as it would allow the team to focus on retooling the offensive line and defense in the 2017 Draft rather than fretting over whether Tyler Boyd and Cody Core can eventually develop into quality receivers. (And if either player, or a guy like Alex Erickson or James Wright pans out, then good on the Bengals.)
Furthermore — and more importantly — it would give Lewis, Zampese and Dalton yet another weapon to work with on offense, making the already strong Bengals offense elite, at least regarding position-playing personnel.
The two biggest obstacles to Jeffery signing with the Bengals are money (of course) and the fact that Jeffery would have to change his mentality and accept being the second-fiddle to Green. With those two factors alone in mind, this move would be a longshot at best. But we can’t help but imagine the possibilities of an offense boasting Dalton, Green, Eifert and Jeffery, not to mention the fact that Giovani Bernard is locked up long-term and Jeremy Hill is locked up at least through the 2017 season.
There’s no doubt signing Jeffery to a long-term deal would be a questionable investment. If the Bengals had signed the departed Jones to a contract worth $8 million per year, they would’ve been spending more money at the receiver position than any other team in the NFL, with the next team in line coming in about $3 million per season behind. Signing Jeffery would either force the Bengals to spend even more than they would’ve spent with Jones or would force Jeffery to take a serious pay cut from the $11 million per season he initially wanted.
Personally, I don’t think investing in Jeffery would be worth the money, though I’d love to see the possibility. (As a matter of fact, I might just pull out an old copy of Madden and trade for Jeffery — if that’s even possible — just for the heck of it.) But considering LaFell’s 2016 production, the more dire needs at other positions and the upcoming extensions due for Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick and others, I don’t think paying big money to another receiver would be a smart move.
What do you think, Bengals fans? Give us your thoughts on a potential Jeffery signing in the comments below.