Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report suggested on Friday, September 22, that the Bears cede the idea of a postseason run after what is likely to be an 0-3 start and begin making moves with the 2024 campaign in mind.
They should thus start thinking now about how to take advantage of contenders ahead of the trade deadline to maximize their chances of [Justin] Fields finally putting it all together in 2024.
That could mean saying goodbye to veteran offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, who may have peaked a few seasons ago and looks to be declining at age 31. … And although safety Eddie Jackson probably has more left in him than Whitehair, he should command a nice return in his age-30 season. Will those guys be around (or at their best) for Chicago’s playoff window in the years to come? Probably not, so the Bears might as well get something for them now.
Eddie Jackson Playing OK on Bad Bears Defense in 2023
Jackson would certainly fetch more of a return than Whitehair based on the season each player is having.
A two-time Pro Bowler (2018, 2019), Jackson and teammate Jaquan Brisker were predicted to be among the better starting safety duos in the NFL. While that could still be the case by season’s end, it’s hard to argue points for a secondary in Chicago that has allowed 280.5 yards and two passing touchdowns per game through two contests. The Bears as a whole have given up 32.5 points per outing with an average margin of defeat of 14 points.
Still, Jackson has been solid in pass coverage, earning a coverage grade of 72.3 from Pro Football Focus. He has allowed five completions on eight targets, though the passes that are being caught are going for huge gains (an average of 23.4 yards per reception, according to Pro Football Reference).
Jackson’s run defense and pass-rush grades are not as good, though PFF ranks the 29-year-old as the 16th-best safety in the NFL this season out of 79 players qualifying at the position. A trade within the division isn’t likely, but a team with playoff aspirations and a weak safety corps — such as the Green Bay Packers — might be willing to fork over a meaningful mid-round pick for a player of Jackson’s caliber who could complete a secondary.
Cody Whitehair Playing Poorly on One of NFL’s Worst Offensive Lines
Whitehair’s value is considerably less. Not only is he older than Jackson, but he plays on a unit that is one of the worst in the NFL.
The Bears’ offensive line ranks 30th out of 32 teams, according to Zoltán Buday of PFF. In terms of pass-blocking, the group is even worse.
“Chicago’s offensive line has a 75.9 pass-blocking efficiency rating this season, which ranks 31st in the NFL,” Buday wrote on Wednesday.
Whitehair has played 126 snaps in 2023 and has already allowed two sacks. PFF currently ranks Whitehair as the 46th-best offensive guard out of 68 players who qualify at the position.
It’s entirely reasonable to believe Whitehair isn’t a player the Bears intend to include in their long-term plans, but his trade value is low. More than that, he’s still a starter on Chicago’s offense. If the Bears hope to develop Fields at all in 2023, they need to keep him upright and trading Whitehair makes doing so even harder.