Cody Whitehair

OL Notes: Smith, Texans, Rams, Bears

The Cowboys are going with a “best five” configuration up front, shifting course months after Jerry Jones discussed a plan of keeping Tyler Smith at tackle. Smith is back at guard, but he may not be a lock to start the season on time. The second-year blocker suffered a hamstring strain, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Jones expects Smith to play in Week 1; the 2022 first-round pick did not miss a game last season. Dallas has lost its starting left guard in free agency in each of the past two offseasons, seeing Connor Williams and Connor McGovern defect to the AFC East.

One of the backup options, Josh Ball, is on IR. Ball is battling hip and groin pain, and the Morning News’ Michael Gehlken notes he is expected to miss around two months. A 2021 fourth-rounder, Ball is not expected to need surgery. The Cowboys kept eight O-linemen, with rookies Asim Richards and T.J. Bass joining Chuma Edoga as backups.

Here is the latest from NFL O-lines:

  • Texans right tackle Tytus Howard returned to practice earlier this week, working out with a cast on his injured left hand. While the fifth-year lineman is on the verge of returning, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes George Fant is expected to play in place of Howard in Week 1. Howard, who signed a Texans extension in July, underwent surgery to repair a broken hand in early August. Fant worked as a regular Jets starter — at left and right tackle — throughout the 2020 and ’21 seasons; injuries limited him to seven games last year.
  • Josh Jones filled in for D.J. Humphries as the Cardinals’ left tackle last season, but the recently traded blocker is back at guard. The Texans have Jones in place as their starting left guard going into the season, Wilson tweets. Jones is replacing 2022 first-rounder Kenyon Green, who is on season-ending IR. Jones spent the 2021 season as a primary Cardinals starting guard. The Texans will also be without center Juice Scruggs to start the season; the second-rounder is on short-term IR with a hamstring injury.
  • The Rams gave Joseph Noteboom a three-year, $40MM deal to replace Andrew Whitworth in 2022, but after another season-ending injury, Whitworth’s would-be heir apparent lost his job. The Rams are going with Alaric Jackson at left tackle, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who adds Noteboom is back at guard (subscription required). Noteboom worked at guard early in his career and was mentioned as a guard option this offseason, but he had played on the outside since becoming Los Angeles’ swing tackle in 2020. The Rams also added Kevin Dotson from the Steelers, and while Dotson has started 30 career games (including 17 last year), Rodrigue adds the team views him as a depth piece. A former UDFA, Jackson started six games last season before becoming one of the many Ram blockers forced off the field due to health issues. Blood clots ended Jackson’s 2022 slate.
  • Previously set to shift back to center, Cody Whitehair is at guard to start his eighth Bears season. Teven Jenkins‘ injury will shift Whitehair to left guard and Lucas Patrick to center, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Recent trade acquisition Dan Feeney is in place as Chicago’s backup center. Jenkins is on IR to start the season. Whitehair spent the past four seasons at guard but began his career with three slates at center. Patrick has played both guard and center. The 2022 free agency addition was ticketed to start at center last season, but injuries limited the ex-Packer to seven games.

Dolphins To Trade OL Dan Feeney To Bears

Dan Feeney is on the move again. The former third-round pick, who signed with the Dolphins this offseason, will not be part of their 53-man roster. Instead, the Bears will acquire him via trade.

The Dolphins and Bears agreed on the deal Monday night, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Dolphins Wire’s Jason Sarney initially reported Biggs was Windy City-bound. This will be Feeney’s fourth NFL team. He played out his rookie deal with the Chargers and spent the past two seasons with the Jets.

Despite the Dolphins guaranteeing Feeney $3.13MM this offseason, they will use him to acquire an asset. Miami will pick up a sixth-rounder from Chicago in this swap, Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Miami has Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg and Isaiah Wynn stationed at guard and Connor Williams at center. Although the team lost Michael Deiter in free agency and dealt with rampant injury trouble along its O-line last season, Feeney will still be shipped out. Feeney had not made a serious push for a starting job, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets.

In Chicago, Feeney will have a better opportunity for playing time. Left guard Teven Jenkins is set to miss early-season time due to a leg injury. At full strength, the Bears have Jenkins set to team with Cody Whitehair and Nate Davis. Whitehair is moving back to center this season, with the Bears having signed Davis. While Lucas Patrick looms as a possible Jenkins replacement, Lieser notes the Bears have slid Whitehair back to guard to fill in for Jenkins. Feeney, 29, brings considerable experience at guard as well, and Patrick and Davis have each missed some time recently due to injury.

The Chargers used Feeney as a guard starter for most of his Los Angeles run. The Indiana alum displayed durability with the Bolts, starting 16 games in each season from 2018-20. The Chargers moved on in 2021, signing Matt Feiler. The Jets did not use Feeney as a regular starter. While Feeney continued his run of good health in New York, missing only one game, he only started seven. Still, Feeney will bring plenty of experience to a Bears team that has seen its revamped O-line take an early hit.

This will be a homecoming for Feeney, who is a Chicago-area native. The Bears came into Monday night with just more than $12MM in cap space. After showing potential as a guard last season, Jenkins will not be able to mount an immediate follow-up. The injury he sustained could sideline him for around six weeks. Chicago cut Alex Leatherwood, after claiming him just after cutdown day last year, but still rosters 2022 seventh-round pick Ja’Tyre Carter as a backup option inside.

NFC North Notes: Hooker, Bears, OL, Packers

Hendon Hooker‘s age (25) likely served as one of the factors for his fall into Round 3. The ACL tear the Tennessee product sustained in November undoubtedly led to him tumbling out of the second round, his widely viewed floor. The Lions now have a developmental quarterback who, despite being drafted seven years after Jared Goff, is barely three years younger than the Detroit starter. Dan Campbell did not view Hooker’s age as a major issue.

We did go into this offseason saying that we wanted to bring in some competition at quarterback,” Campbell said during an appearance on Green Light with Chris Long podcast (h/t Pro Football Talk). “We didn’t know exactly where that might be, who that would be at the time, but we did like Hooker. We knew he was coming off the injury, but there was something about him that was appealing. He’s very mature; he looks the part; he’s got a big arm. H’s just got to learn to play in the NFL. He’s a pro, now, and I like the fact that he was older. We all kind liked the fact that he was older. I think you want your quarterback to be more mature.”

The Lions have begun discussions on a Goff extension. For now, the third-year Detroit starter is tied to his Rams-constructed deal that runs through 2024. Although Hooker should not be viewed as an heir apparent just yet, his rookie deal runs through 2026. Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears are set to hold a center competition between Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick. GM Ryan Poles said he is comfortable with either the longtime guard — who began his NFL career as a center — or the 2022 free agency pickup at center, Courtney Cronin of tweets. Whitehair, 31 in July, has started 107 games for the Bears, who drafted him in the 2016 second round. He spent the first three seasons of his career at center and has been on the radar to move since the Nate Davis free agent signing. A two-year Packers starter, Patrick started only five Bears games during an injury-plagued 2022 season.
  • Chicago will also move Teven Jenkins from right guard to left guard, Cronin adds (on Twitter), to accommodate Davis. The free agent pickup worked as the Titans’ starting right guard from 2019-22. Jenkins will soon move to a fourth O-line position. The Bears tried him at both tackle spots and dangled him in trade talks last year, but they saw the 2021 second-rounder show promise at guard last season. The other new Bears full-timer up front last season, Braxton Jones, is not moving from left tackle. Despite the addition of first-rounder Darnell Wright, Bears O-line coach Chris Morgan said (via Cronin) the team will keeping Jones at left tackle going into training camp. Wright logged more starts at right tackle (27) than left tackle (13) at Tennessee.
  • Set to hold their rookie minicamp later this week, the Lions will arrange for XFL return man Darrius Shepherd to try out. The XFL announced Shepherd, who also caught 48 passes for 519 yards with the St. Louis BattleHawks this season, will attend the Lions’ rookie camp. The 27-year-old wideout, a former UDFA out of North Dakota State, played for the Packers from 2019-20 but did not see NFL game action over the past two years.
  • One of the signees from this year’s International Pathway Program, the PackersKenneth Odumegwu, has never played organized football, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic tweets. The program, which expanded to two divisions (NFC North, AFC West) for the first time this year, provides an extra practice squad spot for an international player.

Bears Pursued Mike McGlinchey; Latest On Cody Whitehair, Teven Jenkins

Even after acquiring D.J. Moore, the Bears entered free agency with the NFL’s most cap space. But they stood down when it came to the top offensive linemen available.

Jawaan Taylor, Mike McGlinchey and Orlando Brown Jr. each signed for at least $16MM per year last week. The Bears could have obviously competed with the Chiefs, Broncos and Bengals for these blockers, but Ryan Poles‘ club did not. The team did try to land McGlinchey, however, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, with The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain confirming it was in on the new Broncos right tackle (subscription required).

As expected, McGlinchey landed a deal on Day 1 of the legal tampering period. The Broncos convinced the five-year 49ers right tackle to sign a five-year deal worth $87.5MM deal (fourth among right tackles), but McGlinchey did well to essentially secure three guaranteed years. His 2025 salary becomes fully guaranteed shortly after the 2024 league year begins, virtually locking in $52.5MM at signing. The Bears were not willing to go there, and the Broncos came from a place of desperation considering their track record at right tackle. Barring injury, McGlinchey will be Denver’s 11th Week 1 right tackle starter in 11 seasons.

Chicago pivoted from Larry Borom to Riley Reiff last season, but Reiff has since joined the Patriots on a one-year, $5MM deal. Reiff’s Pats pact includes $4.15MM guaranteed, per’s Doug Kyed (on Twitter). The deal includes up to $4MM in play-time incentives, Kyed adds. Borom would again be projected to start at right tackle, but the Bears will be connected to right-side options in the first round, The Athletic’s Adam Jahns adds.

This year’s draft includes top-10 tackle options Peter Skoronski, from nearby Northwestern, and Paris Johnson (Ohio State). The Bears have not drafted a tackle in Round 1 since Gabe Carimi in 2011, but Poles was with the Chiefs when they used the No. 1 overall pick on Eric Fisher two years later. With right tackle looking like the weak spot for Chicago up front, the team could use its No. 9 overall pick on one or trade down (again) to nab one of the other three first-round tackle prospects (Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Tennessee’s Darnell Wright, Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison). Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock sends Johnson to Chicago.

On the interior, the Bears may be prepared to move Cody Whitehair to solve the guard logjam they created by Nate Davis‘ three-year, $30MM deal. Poles said Whitehair will be an option to move back to center, citing the seven-year veteran’s nearly 4,000 snaps at the position. Whitehair played center primarily to start his career, working as Chicago’s snapper over his first three seasons before moving to guard in 2019 to accommodate a James Daniels position switch.

Whitehair shifting to center would allow the Bears to have he, Davis and Teven Jenkins as interior starters. While Davis played right guard with the Titans, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs predicts Jenkins will stay at that position after showing considerable promise in 2022. Pro Football Focus rated Jenkins, whom the Bears tried at both tackle spots and dangled in trades last year, as the league’s No. 3 overall guard.

Bears Activate G Cody Whitehair From IR

Cody Whitehair did not need an extensive practice ramp-up period to return from IR. Two days after being designated for return, the veteran guard will be back in the Bears’ starting lineup.

Chicago activated its longest-tenured offensive starter Friday. Whitehair had been out since suffering a knee injury in Week 4. He ended up missing the minimum game total; this Bears transaction will be their third injury activation this season. The team can activate up to five more players from IR this year.

[RELATED: Week 9 Injured Reserve Return Tracker]

Although they have been without their top offensive lineman for half the season, the Bears have climbed to a high perch offensively. They will enter their Week 9 game as the NFL’s top rushing team. Chicago’s Justin Fields-, David Montgomery– and Khalil Herbert-driven ground attack is averaging 188.4 yards per game — nearly 23 more yards than the second-place Ravens — and has led the team to back-to-back games with at least 29 points.

The Bears did not let a recent rout of the Patriots in Foxborough cloud their long-term plan, sending Robert Quinn to the Eagles and Roquan Smith to the Ravens. But they also added Chase Claypool, a move aimed at giving Fields a piece for this year and beyond. Whitehair returning stands to bolster this intriguing Chicago offense.

Whitehair, 30, is in the third season of a five-year, $51.25MM extension. He has been with the Bears since joining the team as a 2016 second-round pick. The Kansas State product has been a starter, at either center or guard, throughout his career. This four-game absence marked his longest layoff as a pro.

Injury Updates: Whitehair, Barnes, Molden, Poyer, Cushenberry

The Bears designated starting left guard Cody Whitehair for return from injured reserve today, opening the 21-day practice window for him to be activated. Whitehair has been on IR since suffering a knee injury in a Week 4 loss to the Giants.

Getting Whitehair back in the lineup should be really beneficial for the Bears and developing quarterback Justin Fields. Whitehair has been a full-time starter on the Bears’ offensive line since he was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft. The former Pro Bowler brings back a key veteran presence in Chicago and could help them push to get back in the race for the NFC North.

Once they feel he’s ready, Whitehair should replace Michael Schofield at left guard. If the Bears don’t feel they can activate him within the 21-day practice window, Whitehair will return to IR for the rest of the season.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • The Packers have designated linebacker Krys Barnes for return from IR, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. Barnes suffered an ankle injury in the team’s season opener this year and has been on IR ever since. The third-year linebacker out of UCLA had started 23 games through the first two years of his NFL career but was expected to compete with first-round rookie Quay Walker for starting time this season. Bringing Barnes back should help add some quality depth to the Packers’ linebacking corps.
  • The Titans have designated cornerback Elijah Molden for return from IR, according to Titans senior writer Jim Wyatt. Molden had been missing several practices in the preseason due to a groin injury and was placed on IR just before the start of the regular season. Molden had made a significant impact as a rookie last year, starting seven games and showing up all over the defense. Aside from finishing fifth on the team for tackles with 60, Molden had an interception returned for a touchdown, four passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 3.0 tackles for loss, and six quarterback pressures. The Titans have gotten a pleasant surprise from a talented, young group of corners so far this season. Molden will add depth behind third-year starter Kristian Fulton, rookie starter Roger McCreary, rookie Tre Avery, second-year corner Caleb Farley, and the lone veteran, Terrance Mitchell.
  • Bills safety Jordan Poyer, who has already missed two games so far this year, didn’t participate in practice today as he deals with an elbow injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The veteran “is considered week-to-week” and could miss some more time. Buffalo already has Damar Hamlin filling in for Micah Hyde, who remains on IR. Special teams ace Jaquan Johnson will fill in for any time Poyer has to miss. He has three such starts over the past two seasons.
  • Broncos third-year starting center Lloyd Cushenberry left last week’s London win over the Jaguars late in the first half with a groin strain. The injury appears to be of some concern as he is expected to “miss some time,” according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS. Veteran Graham Glasgow subbed in for Cushenberry last week in London and is expected to start until he can return. Glasgow has plenty of experience as this is his first year in a backup capacity after six years of starting for the Lions and Broncos before.

Bears Place G Cody Whitehair On IR, Designate WR N’Keal Harry For Return

The Bears will be without their most experienced offensive line starter for a while. They moved left guard Cody Whitehair to injured reserve Wednesday.

Whitehair, who is Chicago’s longest-tenured O-lineman by a considerable margin, suffered a knee injury during the team’s Week 4 loss to the Giants. The Bears are also opening N’Keal Harry‘s IR-return window. Harry will return to practice Wednesday, starting his 21-day activation clock. The Bears are expecting Whitehair back this season, Matt Eberflus said.

Also the only Bears blocker on a notable contract (five years, $51.25MM), Whitehair has been a starter throughout his seven-year run with the franchise. The Bears took Whitehair in the 2016 second round, and after an extensive run at center, the team moved the Kansas State product to guard. This will be a rare stay off the Bears’ 53-man roster for Whitehair, who has missed only two games in his career.

The rebuilding team has been using Lucas Patrick and Teven Jenkins in a right guard timeshare, but Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune expects that to cease for the time being. Patrick will likely slide to left guard to replace Whitehair, leaving Jenkins — whom the Bears have moved around the formation since drafting him in the 2021 second round — on the right side. A poor practice led Jenkins, who had started the first two games at right guard for the Bears, to the bench, Biggs adds. But the Oklahoma State product remained in the team’s rotation over the past two weeks. Whitehair’s injury will open the door to an extended audition for the player the previous regime viewed as a potential long-term left tackle.

Placed on IR shortly after roster cutdown, Harry would be eligible for an a Week 5 return. It remains to be seen if the Bears will deem their offseason trade acquisition ready. Harry underwent ankle surgery in mid-August and was believed to be facing a two-month recovery timetable. The Bears designating the ex-Patriots first-rounder for return certainly appears to show Harry is on schedule.

The Bears’ passing attack has plunged into a strange place. Justin Fields has set 21st-century lows to start his second season, with his 34 completions and 67 attempts both checking in below any quarterback this century through four games (among four-game starters). Any receiving help the second-year quarterback can get will be a bonus. The Bears did not make big-ticket receiver investments this offseason, instead taking a number of fliers. Harry, obtained for a 2024 seventh-round pick, was among them.

Harry began both the 2019 and ’21 seasons on IR and has a history of ankle trouble; an ankle malady led the Arizona State alum to IR as a rookie. Harry’s initial NFL injury threw off his development in New England’s then-complex offense. He started last season on IR because of a shoulder issue. The big-bodied target caught just 12 passes for 184 yards last season.

Latest On Bears’ Offensive Line

Previously a possibility at left tackle, Riley Reiff now looks to be settling in on the right side. The Bears moved the longtime NFC North left tackle-turned-Bengals RT off the blind side recently, with Courtney Cronin of noting rookie Braxton Jones has taken most of the left-side reps over the past several days.

Reiff, 33, played right tackle with the Bengals last season, prior to going down with a mid-December ankle injury that shelved him for the team’s unlikely Super Bowl run, and moved to the right side in 2016 to accommodate Lions first-round pick Taylor Decker. In every other season, Reiff has primarily been a left tackle.

Jones and Reiff starting would leave Chicago with two new tackle starters. The team’s top 2021 left tackle, Jason Peters, remains a free agent. The player the previous regime hoped would commandeer that post, Teven Jenkins, has not done so. The 2021 second-round pick has battled injuries throughout his career. While Jenkins has returned to practice, he has lined up with the Bears’ second- and third-string lines since doing so, Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic tweets.

As Jones began to show starter readiness during the Bears’ offseason program, Jenkins has already popped up in trade rumors. The Bears chose Jones 168th overall out of Division I-FCS Southern Utah. This would obviously be a big jump from his 2021 gig.

Larry Borom worked as Chicago’s primary right tackle last year, but the 2021 fifth-round pick is playing behind Reiff presently. Pro Football Focus graded Borom outside its top 60 tackles last season. Although O-line development usually takes some time, the Bears’ new coaching staff may be prepared to let the Mizzou product learn from the bench behind Reiff (139 career starts). Borom has been working at both tackle spots, suggesting a potential path as the team’s swing backup.

The team exited the 2020 season with one of the league’s most stable tackle tandems, with Charles Leno and Bobby Massie having started together for five years. The Bears, however, released Leno and did not re-sign Massie during the 2021 offseason. Leno is now with Washington, tied to an extension signed earlier this year, while Chicago searches for long-term replacements. The Bears are not expected to contend this season, but Justin Fields preparing for his first full campaign as the team’s starting quarterback certainly makes tackle performance important through a longer-term lens.

Additionally, late-July pickup Michael Schofield is ticketed to be the team’s top right guard, Cronin adds. Mainstay Cody Whitehair remains the Bears’ other guard starter, while ex-Packer Lucas Patrick is poised to be the Bears’ new center. A former Super Bowl starter at right tackle with the Broncos, Schofield has been a serviceable guard in the years since. The Chargers used him as a guard starter in 49 games over the past five years.

Bears Restructure Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair Contracts

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.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/6/20

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers