Ryan Pace’s Bears have made something of a tradition of extending their own players with the regular season in sight. In 2017, it was Charles Leno Jr. and Akiem Hicks. In 2018, it was Eddie Goldman and after trading for him, Khalil Mack.
The latest addition to the Bears’ proactive trench measures is Cody Whitehair. The interior offensive lineman has signed a five-year extension with Chicago, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It includes a total value of $52.5 million and $27.5 million guaranteed.
Bears are signing guard Cody Whitehair to a 5-year, $52.5 million extension that includes $27.5 million guaranteed, per sources. The deal, negotiated by Jeff Nalley and Graylan Crain, gives Whitehair the second-largest guarantee for a guard extension in NFL history.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 1, 2019
Old traditions die hard, especially the good ones.
A proposed extension for the veteran Whitehair had run rampant this off-season. He’s one of the Bears’ top homegrown players of the last half decade and was entering the last year of a rookie contract signed in 2016. The math and logic added up. After Leno Jr. restructured his contract in late August to afford the Bears another $5 million in salary cap space, the writing was haphazardly caked on every wall and carpet in Lake Forest. Whitehair was going to receive the lucrative money he’s earned. It was only a matter of when, not if. Sunday’s extension finally gives an emphatic answer to that question of timing.
Chicago has a vested interest in keeping one of the most talented rosters in the NFC intact for at least the next two seasons. For the first time since the mid-2000s, the Bears’ Super Bowl window is open and a hearty breeze is drifting in. But championship windows close fast in the NFL. They close faster when a team can’t retain its core players, be it the headliners or underrated contributors. The 27-year-old Whitehair, a 2016 second-round pick, 2016 All-Rookie Team member, and 2018 Pro Bowler is assuredly one of the Bears’ core players.
Aside from never missing a start in his three-year career, Whitehair gives the Bears an all-important element of versatility they often glow about publicly. He has the ability to excel at guard or center interchangeably, as he has for the Bears to this stage. The presence of prodigy James Daniels and a shift to his more natural position at center meant the Bears needed Whitehair to move to guard without batting an eyelash, and without disrupting valuable continuity. Whitehair’s experience at every position up front meant that respective transition went as seamlessly as the powers that be could have hoped.
On paper, barring the health of Kyle Long, the Bears begin 2019 possessing one of the NFL’s premier interior offensive lines. From left to right, Whitehair, Daniels and Long is quite a trio to contend with for any defensive tackle. It also means the Bears have each of their five starters on the offensive line locked up through the 2020 season. A bright prospect of stability never comes into fruition if the unselfish Whitehair isn’t capable of switching positions without recalibrating his entire career. Selflessness compounded with athletic versatility for an offensive lineman rarely goes unrewarded in this field.
Robert thinks negotiations with Whitehair weren’t made by a hair. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.