Bears commend Alshon Jeffery for bold Super Bowl declaration

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery raised eyebrows last weekend when he guaranteed the Chicago Bears (3-13) would win the Super Bowl next year.

To a portion of the frustrated fan base, Jeffery's comment -- "I guarantee you we'll win the Super Bowl next year" -- felt ill-timed. The Bears had just finished the worst season in franchise history and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years.

But the organization took Jeffery's message to heart. From the top down, the Bears said on Wednesday they embraced Jeffery's bravado and praised him for the bold declaration.

"My initial reaction was, 'I like that he said that,'" Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "That shows an important player on this team and how he feels about this locker room. I told you I talked to the players Monday; that was the common theme. We've done enough where you can tell there is genuine excitement about this locker room and a closeness about this team."

Coach John Fox added: "You've got to think it and believe it before it happens."

Whether Jeffery is around next year is another story.

Unless the Bears apply another franchise tag, Jeffery is headed to free agency, where he is expected to explore signing with another team. A second franchise tag is costly, but Chicago is among the top five in projected salary cap space for 2017. In theory, the Bears could absorb Jeffery's hefty cap figure and still have enough resources left to improve the team.

Jeffery, 26, had only 52 receptions for 821 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, during which he served a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. But he is still viewed as an upper-echelon NFL receiver.

"He's an extremely talented player that has high expectations for himself," Pace said. "I don't feel like this season he really got into a rhythm that he would have liked to have gotten into. I think that was because of a lot of different quarterback play. And also he missed four games. It's hard for him to get in a rhythm and showcase what he can do."

Matt Barkley, Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer each started at least five games at quarterback for Chicago in 2016.

Jeffery posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014, but missed 11 games combined the past two seasons and his production suffered.

"I think Alshon expects more," Pace said. "I think he's a good player. And that's a big decision for us."

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