For a two-year stretch (2013-14), Jeffery seemed on the verge of superstardom with 174 receptions for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The next two seasons, however, did not go according to plan.
Injuries (2015) and a four-game PED suspension (2016) stifled Jeffery’s development. Bears fans never truly knew how good Jeffery could be. The rest of the league apparently felt likewise because Jeffery had to accept a one-year, $14 million deal from Philadelphia. For Jeffery, the move isn’t horrible, since next year -- at age 28 -- he’ll be free to test the market again. He did not want to sign a two-year deal.
Jeffery preferred going to a team with a solid quarterback already in place, and perhaps after a full season with promising Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, Jeffery will be better positioned to demand top dollar in free agency or receive an extension from Philadelphia.
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles feed Jeffery the ball in 2017 and decide to pay him down the road.
As for the Bears, they just lost their greatest threat at wide receiver. Chicago was passive with Jeffery, who’s been prepared to bolt -- albeit not in the fashion of another one-year, prove-it deal -- since Chicago opted against using another franchise tag on him. The Bears took a wait-and-see approach that led them nowhere.
Jeffery’s departure makes Cameron Meredith -- for now -- the top receiver in the building. Meredith flashed potential last year, but is more of a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Veteran Eddie Royal hasn’t stayed healthy is two years and is scheduled to earn $5 million (none of it guaranteed). Daniel Braverman is a former seventh-round pick. Kevin White has played in just four regular-season games since Chicago drafted him seventh overall in 2015.
White has to emerge in 2017. There is no way around it. White was drafted, essentially, to replace Jeffery. Can White fully recover from two injuries to the same leg and be the same dynamic athlete he was at West Virginia?
If the answer is no, and Jeffery thrives in Philadelphia, the Bears will be rightfully second-guessed for letting Jeffery go.
Moving forward, Chicago has to scrape together whatever it can in free agency, then draft a receiver or two. Quarterback Mike Glennon probably wants to do more than simply hand the ball off to Jordan Howard 30 times a game. But right now, that may be the Bears’ best option on offense.