Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair has quickly become a stalwart on Chicago’s offensive line. In three years with the Bears, he has been a high-quality center who missed only 26 total offensive snaps, and he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2018.
Now that he has three seasons under his belt, Whitehair is eligible for a contract extension, and friend of Da Blog Adam Jahns reported earlier this offseason that this is expected to happen before the 2019 season begins. So today I want to take a look at contracts signed by comparable players over the last few years to see roughly what Whitehair’s contract should be expected to look like.
This is a bit more complicated than usual because of Whitehair’s position change this offseason; after three years as the starting center, he is shifting to left guard. This is actually a good move for Whitehair, because guards actually make a little bit more money than centers do. So I imagine in negotiations the Bears will try to pay Whitehair as a center, which is what he played to earn this contract, while Whitehair’s camp will push for him to be paid as a top guard, which is what the Bears expect him to be going forward. Thus we’ll look at contract comparisons for both positions to see how much they differ.
The table below shows recent contract extensions signed by centers after 3 years in the NFL. I am not looking at free agent deals, because those are usually higher. Signing after three years – with one year left on the rookie deal – is usually the best time for a team to get terms that are slightly more friendly. All numbers used in this piece will be from Spotrac.
Some factors to consider:
- All of these players signed at a younger age than Cody Whitehair, who will be 27 in the 2019 NFL season. That shouldn’t be a huge deal, but is probably a consideration when thinking about length. I’d guess Whitehair’s contract falls in the 4-5 year range.
- The closest comparison to Whitehair in terms of player quality here is probably Travis Frederick, as he’s the only one of this bunch with a Pro Bowl to his name.
- Looking at when a deal was signed is important because the salary cap keeps going up. It was $155 million in 2016, $167 million in 2017, and will be $188 million for 2019. Thus expect contracts to be inflated appropriately.