Cody Whitehair is the second-longest tenured player on the Chicago Bears roster behind long snapper Patrick Scales.
Whitehair is in his seventh season in the league, all of which he has played with the Bears, and he has been as effective this season as he has been previously.
Whitehair has a 68.8 pass block grade from Pro Football Focus to go with a 65.8 run block grade so far this season. In 152 pass block snaps played at left guard this year, Whitehair has not surrendered sack or a QB hit, allowing just six total pressures.
The veteran O-lineman signed a five-year, $52 million contract extension heading into the 2019 season, but next offseason is the first opportunity the Bears will have to part ways with Whitehair and save money, as the cap savings would be greater than his dead cap hit in 2023.
So, what does the future hold for Whitehair?
Keeping Whitehair Around Should Be ‘Significant Part’ of Bears’ Future Plans
An incredibly durable player since the Bears drafted him 56th overall out of Kansas State in 2016, Whitehair missed just two games over his first six seasons heading into this year.
That changed this season, when he suffered a knee injury Week 4 in Chicago’s 20-12 loss to the New York Giants and missed four games, but he has returned and picked up where he left off.
Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo thinks that for the Bears, the future will be about building around quarterback Justin Fields, particularly where the offensive line is concerned. “Retaining guard Cody Whitehair is a significant part of that equation,” Lombardo wrote on November 13.
Whitehair has a base salary of just under $10 million next year, and considering the Bears will have $124 million in cap space in 2023, they can surely afford to keep him around.
Bears Could Use Whitehair’s Versatility on the Line
In addition to being durable, the 30-year-old veteran has been one of the team’s most versatile offensive linemen since his arrival in 2016. He has played 2,441 snaps at left guard, 3,840 snaps at center and 174 snaps at right guard, never earning lower than a 64.9 overall grade from PFF in any season during that span.
“Why wouldn’t the Bears bring a guy like [Whitehair] back?” a league source told Lombardo about Whitehair. “He’s their best offensive lineman, a leader, and even though he makes a lot of money and the Bears are shaking things up a bit, it’s hard to just replace guys like him who bring so much to the table.”
Whitehair was one of four captains selected by the team this year, and there’s no question he’s one of the leaders in the locker room. If he can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, the Bears should keep him, despite fact that he was a selection of the former regime and not this one.
“With Justin Fields really starting to look better, that team really needs to have some legit guys in front of him to protect him,” Lombardo’s source said. “So, I would think they see value in what someone like Cody brings in a variety of ways.”