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Projecting Cody Whitehair’s Coming Extension

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Projecting Cody Whitehair’s Coming Extension

5fb7dabcc9ddb6eb415d87bdfbe6736d?s=16&d= Johnathan Wood | June 19th, 2019

https://dabearsblog.com/2019/projecting-a-cody-whitehair-extension

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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.


Center

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.

C-comparables.png?resize=700%2C187

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.

 

Let’s use Frederick’s deal as a baseline, shorten the length to account for age, and adjust for inflation appropriately. That would give Whitehair a contract in the neighborhood of 4 years, $44 million ($11 million/year), with $15 million guaranteed.


Guard

Now let’s look at how those numbers change when we compare Whitehair to other top guards. Here are recent early extensions signed by guards after 3 years in the NFL (or after 4 years for 1st round picks, which are 5 year contracts. This applies to David DeCastro and Zach Martin).

G-comparables.png?resize=700%2C270

A few thoughts:

  • The lengths of these deals are generally longer than the center ones above. Mostly 5-6 years, though again players are mostly a little younger than Whitehair. I still think a 4 year contract for Whitehair is most likely.
  • We see a much wider range of salaries here, which means the deal will depend on how exactly the negotiators think Whitehair compares to these various players. It’s hard to measure offensive line quality, but using Pro Bowl and All Pro can help. Players with at least one Pro Bowl at the time of signing were Zach Martin (4x), Trai Turner (3x), and David DeCastro (2x). Martin and DeCastro both also had multiple All Pro awards when signing, so I think it’s safe to say they were viewed more highly than Whitehair.
  • In terms of quality, then, it seems like Trai Turner might be the closest comparison, though it’s worth noting he had more Pro Bowls and was significantly younger when signing. Whitehair’s camp will probably point to that contract, accounting for salary cap inflation, as what they want.
  • Ali Marpet might be the next most comparable player, and he signed this year, so there’s no inflation to think about. He’s never made a Pro Bowl, so he’s probably viewed a little worse than Whitehair, but I would guess that contract is a baseline that the Bears try to use if they negotiate with Whitehair as a guard. Incidentally, this wouldn’t look all  that different from the center contract above, which I think we can consider a floor for Whitehair’s new deal.

If we take Trai Turner’s contract and account for inflation, Whitehair would be looking at a deal for 4 years, $50M ($12.5M/year), with $23 million guaranteed. That’s probably a realistic ceiling for his next deal.


Cap Crunch

So there you have it. Whitehair’s extension, when it is signed, is probably going to be for 4-5 years added on to 2019, which he is still under contract for. It should pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $11-$12.5 million per year.

I will be particularly interested to see how the Bears arrange it for cap purposes. They can structure the contract to spread out cap hits pretty much however they want. They have some space to put a bit of money in this year, with about $17M in cap room remaining, and that can easily be accomplished through a roster or signing bonus. The issue comes starting in 2020, where the Bears already have $214 million worth of contracts signed, not including players scheduled to be free agents like Whitehair, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Danny Trevathan, and Roy Robertson-Harris. And next year will be the first time that players like Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson are eligible for extensions, like Whitehair is now.

The Bears have reached the point where their roster is getting expensive, which means they’re going to have to pick and choose who the core players are that they will prioritize. By all indications, Whitehair is one of those players, but signing him to the contract he deserves is probably going to cost somebody else a roster spot in 2020.

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It is key to protect a young developing QB, so I think he is an absolute must. Plus if Mitch (obviously an unlikely worst case scenario) doesn't develop in the next 2 years then you have a potentially top 3 OL set up to protect the new replacement as he hopefully develops.

 

Honestly though I think there are more chances of defensive players going out though. Amukamara, DT, HHCD, etc will be replaced. It is going to be harder to replace major talents on offense in a very complex system, plus with guys like Mack, EJax, Smith and other elite talents it can make the job easier for the new players on defense.

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Cody will get his extension but other than as suggested by Jonathan Woods I won't add anything to that prediction.

How they structure it will depend on how much of that cap excess they want to use up in 2019 vs rolling a fair amount over or even using it on some other extensions later this year.

Given how much more we may need in 2020 it would seem to make sense to push the bigger hits off 'til 2021 and after hoping increases from a new CBA will help to manage those.

We can begin to see why there is a big push to reach and win a Super Bowl now.  We're gonna have some tough choices about who to keep coming up and no doubt we'll have to shed some vet talent.

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8 hours ago, soulman said:

Cody will get his extension but other than as suggested by Jonathan Woods I won't add anything to that prediction.

How they structure it will depend on how much of that cap excess they want to use up in 2019 vs rolling a fair amount over or even using it on some other extensions later this year.

Given how much more we may need in 2020 it would seem to make sense to push the bigger hits off 'til 2021 and after hoping increases from a new CBA will help to manage those.

We can begin to see why there is a big push to reach and win a Super Bowl now.  We're gonna have some tough choices about who to keep coming up and no doubt we'll have to shed some vet talent.

Soul, if Pace can keep finding starting level talent on day 3 that will help keep the costs down.

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20 minutes ago, malagabears said:

Soul, if Pace can keep finding starting level talent on day 3 that will help keep the costs down.

True.....until we have to extend them as well.

Jackson and Cohen won't come cheap so in a way it's probably good we sent those two 1st round picks off for Mack.  That's two fewer fully guaranteed eight figure deals we won't have on the books for four years.  The 2nd we got back will be less pricey.

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It's good that Pace was able to lock up Leno and Massie earlier because Cody is gonna end up as our top paid OL as an OG.

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38 minutes ago, soulman said:

It's good that Pace was able to lock up Leno and Massie earlier because Cody is gonna end up as our top paid OL as an OG.

That's just because of timing.  Daniels will supplant everyone when its his turn.  

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1 hour ago, dll2000 said:

That's just because of timing.  Daniels will supplant everyone when its his turn.  

Smart timing.  Both took less than they might have gotten as UFA.

We have a ways to go with Daniels but yes, he'll likely be in a range close to Cody.

That's why it's good we've locked up two OTs still in their prime for under $10 mil AAV.

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6 minutes ago, soulman said:

Smart timing.  Both took less than they might have gotten as UFA.

We have a ways to go with Daniels but yes, he'll likely be in a range close to Cody.

That's why it's good we've locked up two OTs still in their prime for under $10 mil AAV.

Yes.  And many guys would resent that and it would effect their play and effort, but Massie and Leno aren't like that.

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On 6/20/2019 at 10:54 AM, soulman said:

True.....until we have to extend them as well.

Jackson and Cohen won't come cheap so in a way it's probably good we sent those two 1st round picks off for Mack.  That's two fewer fully guaranteed eight figure deals we won't have on the books for four years.  The 2nd we got back will be less pricey.

Strictly from the standpoint of practicality, if Montgomery is as advertised I think we’ve stocked our roster as though Cohen may not be getting an extension, not because anyone wants to see him elsewhere, but because we can’t pay everyone. Cohen is explosive and exciting, but he’s not Devin Hester and he’s not Tyreek Hill.

As it were right now if you were to take Cohen off the roster we already have 2 versatile backs plus whatever Whyte may be, and at least 5 WR we like a lot, 3 of whom are on rookie deals. Despite what he thinks I think there is a VERY real chance we are going to see Cohen’s offensive role somewhat reduced this year. Not hugely reduced, but the guys they added can also fill the roles he filled last year in ways that make Nagy’s offense less predictable, which is a point he’s driven home time and time again. They didn’t trade up to draft Montgomery to sit, and Cohen IMO offers less versatility as a runner than either Montgomery or Davis in that he basically has to run to space. He still figures to be our principal 3rd down passing situation back but when this offense is on schedule we’re 3rd and 3 or less more often than not, and he’s not nearly the threat to get 3 yards up the middle that either of the other two are while the other two also present a passing game threat that Howard didn’t. By adding other RBs who excel as receivers I think they have significantly reduced Cohen’s value to the offense in the backfield.

In terms of his use as a WR, that’s a crowded room already right now even without him. ARob, Gabriel, and Miller are already locked in IMO as our primary top 3 for 2019. Ridley is likely to get a lot of reps, and Nagy is already raving about what he thinks he can do using Patterson on offense, much of which falls under that same gadget stuff where Cohen has been used previously. That doesn’t even touch on Wims who the coaches keep puffing up, or either Hall, both of whom have Cohen level speed and more size. 

Now it will play out that Cohen gets reps over those guys too and I don’t think we’re taking him out of the game plan by any means, but there are only so many footballs to go around. My larger point was that most if not all of what Cohen can do on offense can also be done by other guys, and when it comes down to contract extension time that stuff matters a whole lot when you’re paying 2 guys QB-level money. By March 2021 when Cohen’s deal is up I think that is the expectation of most. 

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3 minutes ago, AZBearsFan said:

Strictly from the standpoint of practicality, if Montgomery is as advertised I think we’ve stocked our roster as though Cohen may not be getting an extension, not because anyone wants to see him elsewhere, but because we can’t pay everyone. Cohen is explosive and exciting, but he’s not Devin Hester and he’s not Tyreek Hill.

I've given some thought to this as well but counter to it is the data Jonathan Woods developed and I posted that clearly shows the offense is far more productive when Cohen plays a bigger part in it.

I'll be interested to see how things are parceled out this year if only because we do have some many weapons and so much quality depth but so far it's all on paper and no one has been injured.

Given 20 regular and preseason games and hopefully several playoff games I have a feeling we'll need some of that depth.  Rookies seem especially prone to first year injuries so we'll see how it all breaks down.

I believe we'll all have a much better handle on the offense and it personnel packages after this season.

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6 hours ago, soulman said:

I've given some thought to this as well but counter to it is the data Jonathan Woods developed and I posted that clearly shows the offense is far more productive when Cohen plays a bigger part in it.

I'll be interested to see how things are parceled out this year if only because we do have some many weapons and so much quality depth but so far it's all on paper and no one has been injured.

Given 20 regular and preseason games and hopefully several playoff games I have a feeling we'll need some of that depth.  Rookies seem especially prone to first year injuries so we'll see how it all breaks down.

I believe we'll all have a much better handle on the offense and it personnel packages after this season.

I agree with all of your thoughts there. I like and respect Wood’s work quite a bit but his analysis was based on the 2018 offense that had (likely) fewer viable receiving threats on the outside and in which the RB alternative to Cohen was a liability in the passing game and as a runner outside the tackles. I’m of the opinion that Montgomery and/or Davis filling the Howard reps and will have a big time positive impact on what happens on downs when Cohen isn’t on the field, as will Patterson/Ridley/Year 2 Wims. The 2018 analysis factors heavily the limitations of our Cohen-less offensive sets that quite frankly aren’t there anymore. 

The Cohen comparison to Sproles has always been a really good fit IMO. Exciting and explosive and a fan favorite but also limited, and such limited guys are always going to be role players. We haven’t seen Darrell Henderson play a single down in the NFL yet but if I had to pick between having him or Cohen for the next 5 years I’m taking Henderson without a lot of hesitation because I think he’s going to be at least a really good role player too but also think he might be a really good primary RB. Cohen is never going to be that. I think he already is all he’s going to be. That’s not meant as a knock on Cohen in even the smallest way - he’s a good player - it’s meant to be a look at his long term prognosis without my Bears goggles on. He’s already elite in space, an asset as a PR and a great receiver for the RB position, but I don’t think he’s ever going to improve as an inside runner both because I don’t think he’ll be asked to do it and also because when he’s been called upon to do it previously he frequently decides to bounce the play outside anyway. He's never going to be asked to pass block either. Howard was a limited player and we moved on from him - Cohen is a limited player too but with his limitations being less crippling to our scheme. He can do a lot of things but he also can’t do some things, and when we’re deciding who to pay and who we can’t that’s just as important. Sproles was a big part of the Brees/NO offense but as the rest of the roster filled in with capable talent he became expendable. I think a similar fate awaits Cohen in Chicago. To me he’s going to be a 10-year pro but also a guy who’s probably never going to be a good offense’s primary or even secondary playmaker. 

I’m eager and expecting to see Wood do a follow up analysis in this same light after the 2019 season when we’ll be at the point where some of these personnel decisions have to start being made. 

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On 6/22/2019 at 8:11 AM, AZBearsFan said:

Strictly from the standpoint of practicality, if Montgomery is as advertised I think we’ve stocked our roster as though Cohen may not be getting an extension, not because anyone wants to see him elsewhere, but because we can’t pay everyone. Cohen is explosive and exciting, but he’s not Devin Hester and he’s not Tyreek Hill.

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On 6/22/2019 at 8:23 AM, soulman said:

I've given some thought to this as well but counter to it is the data Jonathan Woods developed and I posted that clearly shows the offense is far more productive when Cohen plays a bigger part in it.

That doesn't mean Cohen is the "secret sauce", though. From what he's shown thus far, he can be replaced. 

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On 6/22/2019 at 2:10 PM, AZBearsFan said:

I’m eager and expecting to see Wood do a follow up analysis in this same light after the 2019 season when we’ll be at the point where some of these personnel decisions have to start being made. 

It would be typical of Wood to do that and what it may come down to in the end it point production and his continued excellence as a PR.

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I'd just thought I'd add that we may finally have reached that stage where losing at least some higher cost vets in FA in favor of picking up compensatory picks will work in our favor especially with the skills Pace and his scouts have shown picking up younger talent in the middle rounds.

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