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10 Most Important Bears of 2023: #9 Cody Whitehair

For the 15th straight year we’re bringing you who we believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season, and next up is center Cody Whitehair.

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NFL: Houston Texans at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday I picked the most veteran member of the Chicago Bears defense as my tenth most important Bear for the 2023 season, so it's only fitting that I follow that up with the elder statesman of the offense at number nine; starting center Cody Whitehair.

Last year's starting center, Sam Mustipher, was allowed to leave in free agency, and he's now in line to be a reserve interior lineman for the Ravens. The man signed to be the starting center in 2022, Lucas Patrick, battled through injuries last year before landing on season-ending injured reserve. There were plenty of rumors that the team was looking to bring in a new center this offseason to compete with Patrick, but after the Bears signed free agent guard Nate Davis to play in tandem with up-and-coming guard Teven Jenkins, buzz started about Cody going back to the position he made a Pro Bowl at in 2018.

There were still a few veteran free agent centers on the market, but the Bears stood pat. Then when the draft concluded, and general manager Ryan Poles didn't select a single interior offensive lineman, the Bears' plan was clear for all to see.

Cody was moving to the position he has nearly 4,000 snaps at but none since the 2020 season.

"I was notified a little bit earlier on in the offseason, so it was nice to know, and I was able to get a little more comfortable with it, and I feel good now," Whitehair said about a month ago after an OTA about his move to center.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked their top 32 centers for the 2023 season, and Whitehair just missed the top ten.


Whitehair has had quite a strange career with the Bears, shuffling about the interior offensive line. After earning 71.0-plus PFF grades primarily as a center in his first three seasons in the league, he was kicked out to guard for the first half of the 2019 season before spending the second half of the year back at center. The second half of 2020 through the end of the 2022 season were spent at guard, so it’s been over two seasons since we’ve seen him as a starting center, where he performed better throughout his career.

Having a full offseason to get back into the swing of the position will help him regain his muscle memory for his footwork and hand placement, as well as his shotgun snaps. He had some erratic moments snapping the ball in the past, but head coach Matt Eberflus said that there had been zero snapping issues during the offseason.

"Really the big thing with those guys [the centers] is the accuracy of the snaps, and they've done a great job with that. It's not just in the team periods, it's also in individual," coach 'Flus said during minicamp. "Even when they're gassed and tired during individual, we want them to have accurate snaps, because if they can do it then, they can do it during the games."

The Bears value Whitehair's leadership on the field, as he was chosen as a team captain last year, and off the field, as he was their nominee for the NFL's 2022 Salute to Service Award.

"This will be my eighth year here, and I take a lot of pride in wearing the 'C' and the Bear on my chest. I'm very glad I'm back and look forward to this year," Cody added in his post-OTA presser.

He may have had a down 2021, but he was playing solid football in 2022 before injuring his knee. He probably rushed back from injured reserve too soon because he wasn't the same player down the stretch, but he's healthy now, and the Bears are counting on his experience and leadership.