Residing over the cap entering the weekend, the Bears made a few moves to create more than $20MM in cap space and inch under the $182.5MM salary ceiling.
Chicago will restructure the contracts of Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair, according to Adam Schefter, who adds these moves will create more than $23MM in cap space (Twitter link). The Bears previously had the NFL’s second-worst cap situation, residing nearly $20MM over the cap.
The Bears previously restructured Mack’s deal in 2019. He was due to count more than $26MM against Chicago’s 2021 cap. This marks the first restructure of Jackson’s five-year, $58.4MM deal. Ditto for Whitehair’s five-year, $51.3MM pact. The two combined to count just more than $20MM against Chicago’s cap this year.
The team still has work to do in the cap-space department, and the reshufflings will certainly be connected to a potential quarterback salary. In dire need at quarterback, the Bears are planning to pursue a Russell Wilson trade. Were the Bears to pull off a miraculous deal, they would need to account for by far the biggest contract in franchise history. Wilson’s $35MM-per-year accord runs through 2023.
November 5th, 2020 at 10:47am CST by Zachary Links
The Bears and Texans closed their team facilities on Thursday morning in the wake of COVID-19 positives. As of this writing, the Bears are scheduled to face the Titans in Nashville on Sunday. The Texans, meanwhile, are set to play the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
This isn’t the Texans’ first rodeo. Last week, they were forced to shut down after receiving a positive player test and placing offensive lineman Max Scharping on the reserve list. Logistically speaking, that matter was much simpler since the Texans were on a bye week.
The Bears’ COVID-19 positive player is offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). This news comes on the heels after Jason Spriggs‘ positive test, an indication that there could be spread among the O-Line group. The good news is that the Bears do not believe that Whitehair came into close contact with many players. The hope is that they can isolate, contain the issue, and go ahead with Sunday’s game as scheduled.
In an effort to clear up more cap space, the Bears have restructured lineman Cody Whitehair‘s contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter).
The former second-round has spent his entire career with Chicago, earning All-Rookie Team recognition in 2016 and a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. Whitehair hasn’t missed a regular season game since entering the league, and he’s started each of his 64 appearances.
While the Bears may have slightly reworkedNickFoles contract, the team will still be looking to carve out extra space after acquiring the pricey quarterback. As Yates notes, the front office has traditionally converted base salaries into signing bonuses in an attempt to open up cap space.
The Bears have signed guard Cody Whitehairto 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.