The NFL announced yesterday that Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be suspended without pay for the next four regular season contests.
If the Bears were in the thick of the playoff race, the loss of a two-time Pro Bowl receiver would be significant, borderline catastrophic. Jeffery is arguably the team's best player, on an offense that has struggled mightily to score points this year.
Yet for a 2-7 team that was blown out last week by a sub-.500 Buccaneers squad, losing Jeffery will not impact the team's chance at making the postseason.
Jeffery's suspension is embarrassing for both him and the organization, a franchise that has had four players suspended for PED use since the start of last season. But beyond the PR hassle, this is actually good for the Bears, both in the short- and long-term.
The four-game suspension will cost Jeffery $3.435 million. That is money the Bears can pocket and either use immediately on a free-agent upgrade, or carry over into the off-season next year.
More importantly, Jeffery's suspension could save the Bears a bunch of money down the line.
In 2015, he dealt with three different lower-body soft-tissue injuries, costing him seven total contests. He finished the year on IR, posting his lowest season totals -- 54 catches, 807 yards, 4 TDs -- since his rookie season.
Jeffery also missed six games in 2012 due to a broken hand.
His injury history, combined with his high asking price, were the main reasons the Bears and Jeffery could not come to terms on a long-term contract this past off-season.
In those negotiations, Jeffery's agent had leverage. Jeffery was named a Pro Bowler in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014, catching a combined 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns. When he's healthy, Jeffery is one of the top receivers in the NFL, one who can change the tide of any game in which he participates.
He holds the top two single-game receiving efforts in franchise history (he set the record of 249 yards in December of 2013) and is arguably the most dangerous deep threat in the league.
Jeffery last off-season commanded at least a Top 10 salary at his position, if not a Top 5. The Bears weren't yet sold, thus the $14.6 million franchise tag this year.
That won't be the case when the two sides sit back down at the bargaining table this upcoming off-season.
First, the Bears want to keep Jeffery. The team is 13-28 the past two-plus seasons. Letting elite talent walk, without requisite compensation, will not make the team better. He's a game changer and a first offender. You keep those players.
Only this time, Jeffery's agent won't have the same leverage he did last year. He's coming off the two worst seasons of his career. He's been injured continuously, scored just one TD this year despite playing every game, and now embarrassed the team with his suspension.
Jeffery can still play at a very high level but all of these factors will markedly reduce his value on the open market. The Bears won't be the only team looking for a discount on a player who hasn't posted top-tier numbers since 2014, so it's highly doubtful any type of bidding war will ensue.
Instead of having to pay Jeffery in the $12-million-per-season range, the Bears can now make a strong case for paying him just $9 million a year, or possibly less.
Due to the suspension, the Bears will save nearly $3.5 million this year, and could save $3 million in each of the next four seasons. That's potentially more than $15 million the Bears could save due Jeffery's decision to use PEDs, money that can be invested in other positions of need, thus creating a more balanced roster.
In reality, shame and disappointment are the only repercussion of this suspension. Beyond that, the Bears stand to save a lot of money, which could help the team for years to come.