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Bears not expected to apply franchise tag on WR Alshon Jeffery

Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) reacts against the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: ILPS10

Alshon Jeffery will be a free agent. The Bears, as expected, will not use the franchise tag on him.

Using the franchise tag on Jeffery for the second season in a row would have cost the Bears $17.5 million.

It also would have made Jeffery, 27, the NFL’s highest paid receiver, while changing the negotiations with the team.

Losing Jeffery in free agency, which begins with the new league year on March 9 at 3 p.m, always was a possibility.

Common ground has been difficult to find in negotiations.

Jeffery’s camp is looking for a deal that would put him among the position’s elite, joining Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones.

The Bears are willing to commit to Jeffery but the team also has reasons to be apprehensive about the costs of a long-term deal, starting with his injury-plagued 2015 season and his four-game suspension last year for violating the league’s rules for performance-enhancing drugs.

With teams such as the Eagles, Titans and Rames needing help at receiver, Jeffery’s camp was able to remain adamant with its demands.

Jeffery had 52 catches, 821 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games last season. Overall, they were unimpressive numbers, though he was affected by changes at quarterback.

The NFL Network was first to report Monday morning that the franchise tag was unlikely for Jeffery this year.