Cody Whitehair

Bears Sign G Cody Whitehair To Extension

The Bears have signed guard Cody Whitehair to a massive extension, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It will be a five-year, $52.5MM pact that features $27.5MM in guaranteed money, the second-highest guaranteed sum for a guard extension in league history.

Whitehair has been a key factor in the Bears’ offensive line success over the past three seasons, but despite earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018, he was asked to change positions this year. Chicago is inserting 2018 second-round pick James Daniels at center, meaning Whitehair has been shifted to left guard.

Whitehair has experience moving between positions. At Kansas State, the now-27-year-old spent his first two seasons at guard before moving to tackle for his junior and senior campaigns. In the NFL, Whitehair has mostly stuck at center, although he did line up at both guard positions for a bit in 2018. The results have mostly been spectacular, as Whitehair graded as a top-10 center last season while ranking top-six in pressures allowed (min. 50% playtime), per Pro Football Focus.

Though the guarantee is nice, the average annual value of the deal ($10.5MM) shows that Chicago is paying Whitehair more like a top center than like a top guard. The AAV places Whitehair ninth among all guard contracts but third among all center contracts. But Whitehair, who would have been eligible for free agency in 2020, opted for the financial security of the extension rather than bet on himself for a marginally larger payday next year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Bears G Cody Whitehair

The Bears are one of only a few NFL teams projected to bring back their entire starting offensive line in 2019, and with good reason: the unit was extremely effective at pass-blocking last season. Chicago’s front five gave up just 33 sacks (tied for eighth in the league), and ranked seventh in the NFL in adjusted sack rate.

Cody Whitehair has been a key factor in the Bear’s offensive line success over the past three seasons, but despite earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018, he’ll be asked to change positions next year. Chicago plans to insert 2018 second-round pick James Daniels at center, meaning Whitehair will need to shift to left guard.

Whitehair has experience moving between positions. At Kansas State, the now-26-year-old spent his first two seasons at guard before moving to tackle for his junior and senior campaigns. In the NFL, Whitehair has mostly stuck at center, although he did line up at both guard positions for a bit in 2018. The results have mostly been spectacular, as Whitehair graded as a top-10 center last season while ranking top-six in pressures allowed (min. 50% playtime), per Pro Football Focus.

Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, Whitehair and his representation are now likely looking for an extension. Chicago’s front office, historically, has been more than willing to pay up for offensive line talent. Right guard Kyle Long inked a four-year, $40MM extension in 2016, left tackle Charles Leno received a four-year, $38MM deal in 2017, and right tackle Bobby Massie re-signed on a four-year, $32MM pact earlier this year.

But how will the Bears approach negotiations? Will they view (and pay) Whitehair as a center or a left guard? It’s a critical question, because there a pretty wide gap in top salaries between the two positions. The top of the left guard market reached $13.3MM per year when Andrew Norwell signed a massive contract with the Jaguars in 2017. The center market, however, only hit $11.125MM annually this past offseason thanks to Mitch Morse‘s deal with the Bills.

Whitehair could potentially bet on himself, hoping that he posts another stellar season before cashing in as a left guard — potentially at $14MM or more per year — in 2020. Chicago isn’t likely to use its franchise tag on a guard, especially given that franchise tenders for offensive linemen don’t differentiate between guard and tackle. Therefore, Whitehair really only has to worry about the prospect of an injury tanking his value.

Alternatively, Whitehair and the Bears could split the difference between guard and center salaries and agree to a deal in the $12MM/year range. He’d be making more than any center, but come out just shy of Norwell’s pact with Jacksonville. At present, it’s unclear if Whitehair is willing to trade some of his contractual upside for financial security, but it could be a deal that would satisfy both he and the Bears.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: McCoy, Cooper, Bears

Gerald McCoy spent nearly a decade with the Buccaneers, who have not made the playoffs since 2007. As a result, he is prioritizing a certain type of team as a first-time free agent. McCoy said he plans to sign with a contender, ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson reports.

I want to win,” McCoy said. “I’m not worried about where I’m living. Wherever I got to go to win. … Everybody’s open.”

Thus far, the Browns, Ravens, Bengals, Colts and Panthers have emerged as McCoy suitors. The Browns and Ravens have received or will receive meetings, Cleveland’s occurring over the past two days and Baltimore’s set for Tuesday. The $11MM-AAV offer is believed to have come from a non-contending team. Despite the Browns’ NFL-long playoff drought (16 years), their offseason improvements have this year’s edition profiling as a playoff threat, joining the Ravens and Colts in that regard. Interestingly, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots no longer appear to be interested in the six-time Pro Bowler.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Julio Jones and the Falcons are engaged in contract negotiations, and these talks may well be impacting another NFC team’s re-up discussions with a No. 1 wideout. The Cowboys look to be under the impression Amari Cooper is waiting on the Jones deal before moving forward in his negotiation, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The Cowboys and Cooper are at a stalemate presently, and although Cooper may not have much of a case to be paid more than Jones, the Alabama alums’ age difference (Jones is 30; Cooper will turn 25 next month) may bring their next prices closer together.
  • The Bears are doing some rearranging up front. Former second-round picks Cody Whitehair and James Daniels are switching positions, with Whitehair set to slide to left guard and Daniels to center, J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago notes. A 2016 draftee, Whitehair has started all 48 games in his career and has spent most of that run as the Bears’ snapper. Whitehair played guard at Kansas State, while Daniels — a 2018 draft choice — was primarily a center at Iowa. Both played well last season in their old jobs, Whitehair grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 10 center and Daniels ending his rookie year as PFF’s No. 29 guard.
  • Additionally, Bears backup running back Taquan Mizzell is now a wide receiver, Stankevitz adds. Mizzell is also in his third Bears season; he only received nine carries in 2018.

Bears Sign OT Bobby Massie To Four-Year Extension

The Bears have locked up one of their key offensive linemen for the foreseeable future. The team announced that they’ve extended right tackle Bobby Massie. It’s a four-year deal that will last through the 2022 season.

“Bobby has been an important part of our offensive line the past three years and has shown steady improvement during that time,” said general manager Ryan Pace. “Bobby has a tremendous work ethic and has displayed the kind of toughness and consistency we want in our players. More importantly, he is a great teammate and we’re excited to keep him in the fold.”

The 29-year-old has been a mainstay on Chicago’s offensive line since joining the organization back in 2016. The former fourth-rounder has started each of his 46 games during his tenure in Chicago, including a 2018 campaign where he appeared in all 16 contests. Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance this past season, ranking him 29th among 80 eligible tackles.

With Massie signed, the Bears will now return each of their five starters from the 2018 season, a grouping that also includes Kyle LongCody Whitehair, James Daniels, and Charles Leno. Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times says Whitehair is one of the next Bears in line to receive an extension.

Massie was set to be one of four Bears starters to hit free agency. Safety Adrian Amos, cornerback Bryce Callahan and punter Pat O’Donnell are still unsigned.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Rumors: Daniels, Robinson, Helfrich

Looking to sport at least two Day 1 starters from this 2018 draft class, the Bears also believe they acquired two first-round-caliber talents in April. Chicago brass placed a Round 1 grade on Iowa center James Daniels, whom the Bears selected at No. 39 overall.

We had him as a first-round player,” Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas said during an episode of Meet the Rookies (via Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago). “You never know. Every team’s going to have different flavors with interior linemen. It’s just one of those things that you hope he’s there. But based on our grades, based on where we saw the top 32 players in the draft, we definitely weren’t anticipating him being there.”

The Warren, Ohio, native served as the Hawkeyes’ starting center for the past two seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior year. However, the Bears plan to use him at left guard to replace Josh Sitton, per Perez. Cody Whitehair will make the transition back to center full-time. He served as Chicago’s snapper in 16 games as a rookie in 2016 but saw action at both center and guard in 2017.

Here’s the latest from the Windy City:

  • In recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season and his time with the Jaguars, Allen Robinson did not take part in most of the Bears’ offseason work. However, the former Pro Bowl target is expected to be full go by the time the Bears convene for camp July 19, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com reports. Robinson will be playing on a $14MM-per-year contract and will be essential to Chicago’s passing attack from Day 1, provided he can shake off the knee injury.
  • On the subject of Bears receivers, Taylor Gabriel, not Robinson, will be slotted at the position that Tyreek Hill plays in this scheme, Perez notes. Although Robinson delivered dominant work on deep balls with Blake Bortles in a breakout 2015 season, Gabriel profiles as the player who more closely resembles Hill on this new-look receiving corps. He’s twice averaged more than 16 yards per reception in a four-year career.
  • Chicago’s new offense won’t just be an NFC version of Andy Reid‘s. While Chiefs viewers who find their way to Bears games on Sundays will see familiar concepts, Matt Nagy‘s attack will also contain elements from OC Mark Helfrich‘s former Oregon offenses, Mitch Trubisky said (via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, on Twitter). The 2017 No. 2 overall pick said the Bears’ new offense is more complex than he’s accustomed to, so it will be interesting to see how the North Carolina product looks with a mostly new cast of pass-catchers. With the Chiefs using plenty of college concepts in recent years, and the Bears hiring a former college HC, Trubisky could be piloting one of the more unique offenses in the NFL this season.

North Notes: Browns, Bears, Mosley, Cooter

Having already been connected to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, the Browns are midway through an all-hands-on-deck offseason when it comes to their quarterback choice. However, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports the Browns may not be dismissing a Baker Mayfield pick. Multiple evaluators informed Robinson that the Browns are going to be down to Darnold or Mayfield.

A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of John Dorsey,” one source told Robinson from the Senior Bowl. “Just his mental makeup as a player, John believes in building around those kinds of guys. … I think he’s a strong candidate [for the top pick] after this week.”

The 6-foot passer has been mentioned the least among the top quarterbacks as being a viable option at No. 1 at this point in the pre-draft process, but Dorsey said this week there could be “four or five” prospects the team could target atop the draft. While Mayfield’s character issues are still cropping up this week, it’s looking clear he will be picked in the top half of the first round. Robinson notes former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan serves as one of Dorsey’s top sounding boards, and McCloughan’s been pro-Mayfield for a while. Another source noted Dorsey’s past with the Packers during the Brett Favre era could apply here, given Mayfield’s gunslinger style and sometimes difficult off-field persona. Nevertheless, it would quite the leap for Mayfield to rise to the top of the draft over passers who have long been viewed as better prospects.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions:

  • C.J. Mosley has no designs on leaving Baltimore. One of numerous 2014 first-round picks to be stuck in fifth-year option limbo, Mosley is eyeing a career that ends with him being ranked as the second-best linebacker in Ravens history, he said (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). The Pro Bowl inside ‘backer expects something to get done regarding an extension. Mosley is set to make $8.718MM next season.
  • The Lions are going to have an entirely new defensive staff under Matt Patricia and already parted ways with quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, who became a coveted commodity this week. But the expectation remains Patricia will retain OC Jim Bob Cooter, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com notes. While the Lions have struggled on the ground under Cooter, finishing 32nd twice during his two-plus-year tenure running the offense, Matthew Stafford‘s had his best run of seasons during Cooter’s time in Detroit.
  • An internal debate’s being waged at Bears headquarters as to whether Cody Whitehair will function better as a center or guard, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes, adding this process will impact whether the team picks up Josh Sitton‘s 2018 option. Whitehair has played both spots, receiving most of his work at center, while Sitton is a pure guard. The soon-to-be 32-year-old blocker is due to count $8.57MM against the Bears’ 2018 cap if the team picks up his option.
  • Another possible factor working in Sitton’s favor for a third Bears year is the Kyle Long‘s suddenly injury-prone status. Biggs reports Long will undergo multiple surgeries this offseason. Long played in 10 games this past season after an extensive rehab process didn’t end until after the 2017 campaign began.

Impact Rookies: Chicago Bears

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

First Round – Leonard Floyd, OLB (Georgia, No. 9 overall)

The Bears came into the draft looking to improve the talent on both of their lines. But, they instead traded up from No. 11 to No. 9 to land Georgia ‘backer Leonard Floyd. Hopefully, he survives the rigors of training camp, as his professional debut saw him carted off the practice field after he was overcome by the heat and scrimmage action. Leonard Floyd

When the NFL teams arrived in Athens for the Georgia March 17th Pro Day, they not only wanted to see how Floyd performed in drills, they also wanted to figure out what his best position might be. . That has been the “pleasant” problem for Georgia coaches during the last three years – where to put their top playmaker. It was not as if he could not perform at any of these positions, but more so that he was needed elsewhere to fill the voids created by injuries or poor performances by others. Since first putting on the Georgia uniform, Floyd played all the “name” game positions – Jack, Sam, Mike and Will. He’s lined up as a rush end and even played inside as a defensive tackle for three contests late in the 2014 campaign.

Wherever he has played, Floyd has done so at a high level. He started 32-of-38 games at various positions while recording 184 tackles that saw him deliver 33 of those stops behind the line of scrimmage. He got in on twenty quarterback sacks and pressured opposing passers 54 times. On five of those plays in the backfield, he caused fumbles, recovering two to set up Georgia touchdown drives. All in all, a good day of work is usually the norm for Floyd on Saturdays. Now, he’s likely ticketed for the outside linebacker position on Sundays with Chicago.

Floyd has never been known for being a bulky guy and his thin frame did draw considerable concerns from scouts who analyzed him in 2014. He played at 237 last season after checking in at 220 during his first two years, but impressed team decision-makers with his 244-pound weigh-in at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. While his frame is likely at a maximum growth potential, he demonstrated to the Bears that he has plenty of strength and also eased concerns about his surgically repaired shoulder.

Floyd has that quick first step that will usually see him gain advantage on a slower offensive lineman. He can get up field quickly and reaches the corners with good urgency to push the outside running game back in. He flashes that burst to surprise a lethargic blocker (see 2015 ULM, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri and Georgia Southern games), which allows him to get instant penetration. He has the lateral range to slip into the backfield when working in-line and with his quick hands and feet, he has no problem retreating and chasing down receivers when working in the second level (might be considered as a Sam linebacker because of this). He has the acceleration to take a wide loop around the corner and still pressure the pocket.

He stays low in his pads and has the loose hips to redirect, also displaying the second gear needed to excel in long pursuit. He is a quick twitch type with very active hands and good balance, keeping his feet on the move while doing a nice job of avoiding low blocks. Because of his shoulder surgery, Floyd was limited a bit early in the year, but as the 2015 season progressed, he showed that he actually was getting stronger and quicker deeper into the games, thanks to his excellent athletic ability. There’s no reason to doubt that he can do the same at the next level.

Continue reading about the Bears’ rookie class..

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Bears Sign Several Draftees, UDFAs

The Bears announced 17 signings today, confirming several previously-reported moves and revealing some new ones (Twitter links). The team has signed seven of its 2016 draft picks and 10 undrafted free agents to fill out its offseason roster.

Of Chicago’s nine draftees, only one – fourth-round defensive back Deiondre’ Hall – had reportedly agreed to terms prior to day. However, the Bears have now locked up six more of their picks to go along with Hall. Here’s the full list of draft picks signed by the club:

A pair of front-seven players – first-rounder Leonard Floyd and third-rounder Jonathan Bullard – have yet to sign their rookie contracts with the Bears, but the team has otherwise secured its draft class.

Meanwhile, in addition to confirming the eight undrafted free agent signings we passed along on Friday, the Bears added two more rookies – Liberty wide receiver Darrin Peterson and Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson – to their roster. The former received a $6K signing bonus from the team, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).