Cody Whitehair has been in Chicago since 2016, but his time with the Bears will come to an end this offseason. The veteran offensive lineman has been released, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team has since announced the move. Safety Eddie Jackson has also been let go.
One year remained on Whitehair’s deal, but none of his $10.15MM salary was guaranteed. As a result, this move will yield $9.15MM in cap savings and a dead cap charge of $4.1MM. Today’s news come as little surprise, but it will give the 31-year-old a head start on free agency.
After arriving in Chicago in 2016, Whitehair saw immediate playing time at center. He remained at that position for much of his first three seasons with the team, starting every game and earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. Things began to change after that point, though, as the former second-rounder started splitting his time between center and left guard. He operated as the full-time LG in 2021 and ’22, and that was his primary spot this past season.
Whitehair’s PFF evaluations have seen a decline in recent years, and his 45 mark represents a career low. He was charged with three sacks and 22 pressures allowed in pass protection, and the Bears will now move forward with other options along the interior of their O-line. Chicago made a sizable free agent investment in Nate Davis last offseason, and after being drafted as a tackle, Teven Jenkins has shown promise at both guard spots. They, along with 2023 first-rounder Darnell Wright, will be key pieces up front for Chicago moving forward.
Jackson, too, had one year remaining on his current contract but faced the possibility of being let go. He recently indicated a cut would be coming, and the news is now official on that front. Jackson started each of his 100 games with Chicago, but injuries and declining production weighed heavily as factors working against him being retained for 2024 and beyond.
The 30-year-old was due over $14MM next season, but his release will save roughly $12.5MM in cap space. Given the financial benefits, Jackson’s release also comes as little surprise. The Bears were already slated to be in a better situation with respect to cap space than many teams, but these moves will add to their flexibility. Whitehair and Jackson will collectively account for just under $9.7MM in dead money in 2024.
Jaquan Brisker has established himself as a key contributor at the safety position in the present and the future for Chicago, but the other starting spot will need filling this offseason. The Bears have a number of relatively inexperienced incumbent options to choose from, along with the free agent and draft avenues to pursue a Jackson replacement. The two-time Pro Bowler last played a full season in 2020, and he has recorded one or fewer interceptions in three of the past four years.
Still, he and Whitehair will be able to sign with an interested team at any time (as opposed to having to wait for the start of the new league year in mid-March). It will be interesting to see how much of a market they will manage to generate, though deals worth much less than what they were originally due should be expected. Chicago will move forward with roughly $67MM in cap space, the third-highest total in the league as cost-cutting season picks up.