Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery became the first 2016 free agent to be officially tagged on Monday, when the Chicago Bears placed the franchise designation on the former second-round draft pick.
The move assures Jeffery a 2016 salary of $14.599 million unless the two sides work out a long-term deal, which head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace said was the stated goal. Teams can rescind the franchise tag unless a player signs the tender offer.
Jeffery is ninth in the NFL since 2013 with 3,361 receiving yards and has 21 touchdowns in 41 games during that time (14th in both categories).
Jeffery appeared in nine games for the Bears in 2015 but was never fully healthy following a muscle strain in his leg in August. Jeffery ended the season on injured reserve with 54 receptions for a team-high 807 yards with four touchdowns. His 89.7 receiving yards per game average is eighth in the NFL in 2015.
Fox said Jeffery was "worth the risk" after a season defined by injuries.
The Bears expect to have as much as $52 million of salary cap space when the new league year begins March 9 but lose a chunk of that to retain Jeffery.
Chicago last used the franchise tag in 2013 on defensive tackle Henry Melton. The year before they franchised running back Matt Forte.