All signs indicate WR Jeffery won't return to Bears

INDIANAPOLIS — Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery does not sound like a player who expects to return to the Bears.

The 2013 Pro Bowl pick will test the unrestricted free-agent market after the team decided not to place the franchise tag on him for a second straight season. Jeffery made $14.6 million last year as the Bears’ franchise player, but they balked at using the tag for a second straight season, which would have cost $17.5 million.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said the team will continue to negotiate with Jeffery, but it may already be too late.

“I don’t have any hard feelings towards the Bears — it’s all love,” Jeffery told ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “Whatever the next chapter is, I’m ready for it. I’m looking at the teams that obviously need a wide receiver, but also put me in the best situation to win a championship right now. I also want to see what other free agents may be attracted to the same teams I’ll be looking at. That can help that goal.”

Jeffery’s desire to compete for a championship would seem to rule out the Bears, who are 14-34 over the past three seasons, finishing last in the NFC North each year.

Pace did not close the door on the team agreeing with Jeffery on a multi-year deal after he samples free agency.

“Sometimes when you can’t come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it’s necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player’s value, and that’s really where we’re at,” Pace said on Wednesday at the NFL’s Scouting Combine. “He’s a good player, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

In 2013 and ’14 Jeffery had 87 receptions, 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns. But last year he missed four games due to a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and had 52 catches for 821 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2015, he missed seven games due to a variety of injuries and caught 54 passes for 807 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Locally grown O-lineman:

Lemont’s Ethan Pocic is one of the top centers in an average group after starting for three years at LSU. He said living up to big brother Graham, who played at Illinois, helped him get where he is.

I didn’t want to be the kid that wasn’t as good as his brother or is a disappointment,” the 6-foot-6, 3076-pound Pocic said. “My brother did a great job of setting the bar for me.

“One time I was at a gym working out and was probably doing like 115 pounds, and I was in like seventh grade. Someone walks up, and he didn’t say it to me, but he said it out loud so everyone could hear it, ‘Oh, he’ll never be as good as Graham.’ There’s a lot of expectations, but I think it made me the player that I am today.”

Strong up front:

GM Ryan Pace believes the interior of the offensive line is a team strength with Pro Bowl guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton bookending Cody Whitehair, who had an excellent rookie season in the pivot in 2016.

“I think it’s set to be one of the better interior groups in the league,” Pace said. “Of course there are more pieces we need to add — that’s important.”

And Long is coming off ankle surgery and a lengthy rehab on his shoulder, which did not require surgery.

Indiana’s Dan Feeney, who played at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, is rated the No. 1 guard in Pro Football Weekly’s Draft Guide. He started 49 games for the Hoosiers and is regarded a plug-and-play starter as an NFL rookie.

Feeney grew up a big fan of the Bears, especially Walter Payton, so he was asked about playing for the Packers.

“I’m fine with it now,” he laughed. “I’ll go anywhere, but it would be cool to play for your hometown team.”

• Follow Bob’s Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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Source: Sports

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