Daily Focus: Should Bears sign Alshon Jeffery to long-term deal?

Gordon McGuinness discusses Jeffery's value to the Bears, Flacco's return to the field, and the Lions' offense without Megatron.

| 3 months ago
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Daily Focus: Should Bears sign Alshon Jeffery to long-term deal?


Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.

Should the Bears sign Jeffery to a long-term deal? The Chicago Bears drafted wide receiver Alshon Jeffery out of South Carolina with the 45th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and now have him as their franchise player for the 2016 season. After four years in the NFL, Jeffery has proven that he deserves a long-term deal with the Bears. He shared the spotlight with Brandon Marshall for a few years, but when he was healthy in 2015, he was playing at the highest level we have seen from him in his career, finally as the Bears’ primary target at wide receiver.

He had the seventh-highest receiving grade of all receivers in the NFL last year, despite playing just 516 snaps, dropping just two of the 56 catchable passes thrown his way. That was good for the 10th-best drop rate at the position (among players with at least 48 targets). It’s a trait he has become known for, dropping just 14 passes since entering the league in 2012, and never more than five in a single season. Considering Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Oakland’s Amari Cooper dropped 15 and 18 passes, respectively, last season, the fact that Jeffrey hasn’t dropped that many over the past four seasons shouldn’t be overlooked.

Provided he’s healthy, Jeffrey is set up for a huge year in 2016 if the time he spent on the field last season is anything to go by. Our yards per route run signature stat takes into account the number of times a wide receiver went into a pattern, giving a better indication of production on a per-snap basis than yards alone. In 2015, only three wide receivers in the NFL, Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Baltimore’s Steve Smith, and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, had a higher yards per route run average than the Bears’ receiver. If he can be that productive over a full season in 2016, his value is only going to go up.

YPRR

Will it really be tougher on defenses with Calvin Johnson retired? That’s what Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford claims, but is he correct? Well, it’s not quite a simple yes or no answer. What the Lions are losing with Johnson gone is our fifth-highest-graded receiver from the 2015 season, and a player who graded among the top-10 wide receivers in football in each of the past six seasons. “Megatron” is also not the type of player you replace easily, a physical freak at at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, with the speed to burn past defenders as well as out-leap them to grab the ball downfield; cornerbacks will be glad to not have to face him during the 2016 season.

That being said, with him out of the picture, the Lions’ offense will likely need to change slightly, and we can see the beginnings of that this offseason. They signed Marvin Jones from the Bengals in free agency, and he will be considered the replacement to Johnson this offseason, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be used as such. Jones forced 12 missed tackles on 65 receptions in 2015, with only 13 wide receivers forcing more. One of those players was Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, who lead the league with 30 missed tackles forced from 90 receptions. Tate has forced at least 20 missed tackles in each of the past four seasons, so clearly getting the ball to him in space is a good idea.

Factor in that the Lions also have our highest-graded receiving running back on the roster in Theo Riddick, who forced 36 missed tackles from 80 receptions, and the offense is stacked with players who can make you miss in space. Considering they have lost one of the best downfield talents in the game in Johnson, don’t be surprised if we see them even more reliant on short passes to playmakers in space in 2016.

 

Ravens’ Flacco not sure how he’ll react mentally to a hit: It’s a big part of any recovery from a serious injury, how a player handles being back on the field and taking a big hit. Baltimore Ravens signal-caller Joe Flacco missed significant snaps for the first time in his career last year, going down for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. While his level of play has been up and down throughout his career, it’s clear how much the Ravens missed him on offense, so getting him back at 100 percent is key to their hopes of competing in the AFC North and beyond next year.

Putting pressure on Flacco for opposing defenses isn’t just about making him uncomfortable as he comes back from injury, though—it’s an area Flacco has significantly struggled with over the past three seasons. From 592 drop backs under pressure in that timespan, Flacco has earned a cumulative grade of -39.9, compared with +28.4 on 1,175 dropbacks with no pressure. That’s a huge grade swing, with Flacco’s adjusted accuracy percentage—which takes into account drops, spikes, hit as throws and throwaways—ranking in the bottom half of the league in two of the past three seasons. The 2014 season was a great example of how different of a quarterback Flacco is under pressure.

FlaccoPressure

With a rookie starting at left tackle, and uncertainty at the left guard position too, Flacco likely won’t have to wait long to see how he reacts to pressure and getting hit in his return to the field.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • McGeorge

    Let him walk, don’t pay him.
    Instead draft another very good wide receiver in the 2nd round, so you can pay him 600K. That way you save 10MM/year for 4 years.

    All you have to do is spot first round talent and select it in the 2nd round. Sounds easy.
    Thats why the Jets selected Stephen Hill (bust) ahead of him.

  • Jason Williams

    I think Alshon is maybe the best #2 WR in the league but the Bears should not pay him as a #1,

    • crosseyedlemon

      Hi Jason. According to Spotrac Jeffery’s average salary ($14,599,000) is only bettered by A.J Green’s among WRs so the Bears are obviously very high on this guy. Ashton’s getting a long term deal will depend some on whether Kevin White develops into the player they were seeking when they made him a 1st round pick in 2015.

      • Jason Williams

        his salary is dictated by the rules of franchise one year contracts, so his pay says nothing about what the bears think of him, only that they don’t want to lose him for 2016.

        • crosseyedlemon

          I’m just hoping the front office doesn’t start playing the same contract games with Jeffery that they did with Forte. That doesn’t do anything but hurt team morale. They have Cutler on a long term deal so they need to find a go to guy he’s happy with and lock him in.

          • Jason Williams

            This is cutlers last year as a bear. Mark my words.

          • crosseyedlemon

            As much as I hope your right, I just can’t see Brian Hoyer as our new savior.

          • Jason Williams

            clearly a draft FA signing or trade would have to take place.

            Although Hoyer is exactly the kind of guy the Bears churned through for 20 years between McMahon and Cutler.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Does Matt Stafford even have the slightest clue as to what being a team leader means?