Forget Alshon Jeffery: History says Bears can overhaul WRs quickly for 2018

Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery has returned to the scene of his guarantee.

It was in Minnesota where Jeffery guaranteed a Super Bowl victory for this season. He and the Eagles, of course, will face the Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Vikings.

Jeffery’s guarantee will be a talking point all week. As always, he probably will smile when he is asked about it and coyly say he never mentioned which team his guarantee was meant for. But he definitely was talking about the Bears when he said it.

It was part of a convoluted exchange with the media in the visitors’ locker room of U.S. Bank Stadium after the Bears’ 38-10 loss to the Vikings on Jan. 1, 2017, that concluded an awful 2016 season.

Alshon Jeffery celebrates after scoring on a 53-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings on Sunday in Philadelphia.
| Al Bello/Getty Images

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Here was the question that elicited Jeffery’s now-famous guarantee: ‘‘Do you think this team [the Bears] has enough if you were here next year to be a contender?’’

‘‘I guarantee we will win the Super Bowl next year,’’ Jeffery replied, then continued: ‘‘We have a lot of injuries. I don’t think another team in the league had as much injuries as us.’’

Again, ‘‘we’’ and ‘‘us’’ would be the Bears. A day later at Halas Hall, Jeffery stood by his Super Bowl prediction.

‘‘Damn right,’’ he said.

Jeffery then promised the Bears would be a different team in 2017 — and he was right. He wouldn’t be part of it. He didn’t want to be, and the Bears knew it. He left in free agency for an incentive-laden, one-year deal with the Eagles.

At this point, though, Jeffery’s place in the Super Bowl shouldn’t be seen as what the Bears lost but as what they might be in the future. He shows how quickly the receiver position can be overhauled.

The Eagles signed Jeffery and Torrey Smith in March, traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for cornerback Ronald Darby in August and counted on the emergence of two draft picks, Nelson Agholor (first round, 2015) and tight end Zach Ertz (second round, 2013).

The Patriots also are an example of how the receiver position can be transformed. They acquired Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick from the Saints for first- and third-round selections in March. In September, the Patriots sent third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for Phillip Dorsett not long after losing Julian Edelman to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Both teams took an aggressive approach, but one that typically exists among those with a quarterback in place. The Bears now have Mitch Trubisky. When Jeffery left for the Eagles, general manager Ryan Pace’s pursuit of Trubisky was still a secret.

The Eagles made their changes at receiver before quarterback Carson Wentz’s second season. The Rams did the same for quarterback Jared Goff, signing Robert Woods in March, drafting Cooper Kupp in April, then acquiring Sammy Watkins from the Bills in August.

As for Jeffery, he didn’t put up No. 1 receiver numbers during the regular season — 57 catches, 789 yards and nine touchdowns — but he finally got the long-term deal that eluded him in free agency. He signed a four-year, $52 million extension with the Eagles in December.

The Bears’ injuries at receiver, meanwhile, magnified Jeffery’s departure. Free-agent addition Kendall Wright led the Bears with 59 catches for 614 yards, but he began the offseason program as the No. 4 option behind Cam Meredith (torn anterior cruciate ligament), Kevin White (broken shoulder blade) and Markus Wheaton (appendectomy, broken pinkie, torn groin muscle).

Pace is under pressure to deliver something better for 2018, but the Eagles and Rams are proof that a successful overhaul at receiver can be accomplished in one offseason.

Just ask Jeffery. He might guarantee it.

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com