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Chicago Bears 2017 Roster Turnover: Should Cody Whitehair stay at center?

In this 13 part series we'll take an in depth look at each position group for the Chicago Bears with an eye towards the 2017 season. We'll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we'd like to see general manager Ryan Pace make.

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Cody Whitehair - Signed through 2019 - Whitehair wasn’t supposed to be the center of the future, but an injury forced the hand of the Chicago Bears, and now he looks like a 10 year mainstay. Then again, he does have some position flexibility, so a move would not be out of the question. This all depends on which five offensive linemen the coaches deem to be the best. We’ve seen this coaching regime move Kyle Long to right tackle to get the best five on the field, so it’s not like we’re talking uncharted territory here.

Whitehair practiced all offseason at guard and he was a college left tackle. But, the only way I see Whitehair being pushed from the center spot is if Hroniss Grasu has a really fantastic training camp. Whitehair could move to guard, but the Bears have a Pro Bowl tandem currently playing there. Moving Long back to tackle could be a possibility, but general manager Ryan Pace has reservations about that, saying “That would be a concern moving [Long] around, back and forth, and we have to be conscious of that. Kyle’s coming off two injuries, so he’s going to miss a lot of time this offseason.” Long has already had surgery on his ankle, with his labrum surgery happening in the coming weeks. With the Bears not sure how quick Long will be 100%, Pace will “reduce the situation where he’s getting moved around too much because he’s at his best when he’s focused on one position.”

The reason just about every scout had Whitehair pegged for a move inside, was his height and arm length. Being 6’4” isn’t all that bad, but coupled with less than ideal arm length and scouts feared he wouldn’t have the length to ward off speedy edge rushers. Check out this spider graph from Mock Draftable that illustrates my point.

I think Whitehair has the necessary athleticism to play tackle, but not having the reach to be able to get his hands on pass rushers places him at an immediate disadvantage.

Hroniss Grasu - Signed through 2018 - Grasu should be able to come all the way back from his torn ACL, and if he develops like the Bears expect him to, they’ll most likely have a very good back up. I just don’t see the Bears moving Whitehair from center unless there’s an injury. Pace believes Grasu’s only NFL position is center, saying “I view Hroniss more as a center-only. If he comes back, that’d be the position he’s competing for. If Hroniss is playing like a solid NFL starting center and gets to that level, which I think he can, that’s a good problem.” But now here’s the part that leaves it open for a Whitehair move, but contradicts his other statement on Long, “We have flexibility with other guys. Cody Whitehair is a flexible guy and Kyle is too. We’ll see how it shakes out.”

Grasu will probably need to show his versatility at guard once camp opens. He added some size and strength last offseason, so if can do that again, he could add value to his skill set.

Cornelius Edison - Signed a reserve/futures deal - Edison will be in camp, but if Grasu is back at 100%, the best chance Edison has is another spot on the practice squad. Maybe he pushes for a spot if the Bears don’t re-sign their other offensive line free agents, but for now I see Edison as a fringe 53 man roster guy.

2017 OUTLOOK - With Whitehair and Grasu, I’d say this position is locked down for next season. If either Eric Kush or Ted Larsen return, they both can play center, so no need to spend on this position at all.

But, if Kush and/or Larsen are let go, then the Bears will probably want another interior offensive lineman, and one that can play center as well as guard is always a plus.