Written by: John Stocco
September 1st is becoming Ryan Pace’s favorite day of the entire year. This morning Bears fans like myself were reminiscing over the Khalil Mack trade that happened one year ago today. As we’re watching the awesome Khalil Mack highlight collection, news broke that the Chicago Bears extended guard Cody Whitehair to a 5-year, $52.5 million extension that includes $27.5 million guaranteed. It’s the second-largest guaranteed contract extension in NFL history. Since March the Bears have been getting creative with their contracts. They moved around numbers to certain years for players like Kyle Long, Khalil Mack, and Charles Leno Jr, and the Bears all of a sudden went from a team who had zero room for mistakes, to a team that landed in the top 10 of salary cap flexibility before the Whitehair extension. The Bears needed to get this done for two reasons. One, Cody Whitehair is one of the best interior linemen in the NFL, and two, the Bears couldn’t walk into the offseason with the future of Cody Whitehair and Leonard Floyd in doubt. This is why I love Ryan Pace. When he sees value in you he doesn’t pull any punches. He gets the job done, and gives you the contract that you’re worth. Is Cody Whitehair worth $52.5 million with $27.5 million guaranteed? He’s a versatile offensive lineman who is a top 10 center and a top 10 guard in the NFL, and he’s durable. In three seasons he’s played in all 16 games in all three seasons. The Bears showed a lot of faith in Whitehair, but the game that made him a franchise player was the Sunday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Rams when Aaron Donald was a non factor throughout the entire game. The Bears have invested heavily in their offensive line, and to be a championship team your offensive line has to be stable and dependable, and the Bears have done just that. With the Whitehair extension, let’s take a deep dive on what the Bears have at offensive line.
Depth on the offensive line isn’t their biggest strength, but they have their present and their future on three starting spots upfront. Charles Leno and left tackle, James Daniels who will take over at center this year, and Cody Whitehair who will go back to his original position which is left guard. Three players who are all under the age of 28, and are signed to long term contracts as they enter their prime. On the other side of the offensive line the Bears have Mr. Reliable at right tackle, Bobbie Massie, who they also extended in the offseason, and Kyle Long at right guard. Bobbie Massie is a safe bet to make. You’re not going to see elite production out of him, but he’s a pro, he’s a veteran, and he gets the job done as last year he received the highest PFF grades of his career with a 78.9 pass protection grade, and an overall grade of 71.2. Kyle Long has dealt with a plethora of injuries in his career, and it’s why the Bears signed veteran backup Ted Larsen in the spring, but if he stays he’s still a valuable option at right guard. When he was healthy last year he received a 81.0 passing grade according to PFF.
This is a group that’s severely underrated. When people talk about the Bears they rarely talk about their production at the offensive line. This group is walking into the 2019 season as the 9th best offensive line in football. Ryan Pace is a guy that needs to start getting recognition as one of the best executives in the NFL. He’s built a Super Bowl contending team by building an elite defense, drafting a franchise quarterback, and doing everything possible to give that franchise quarterback enough weapons and protection to succeed in the NFL. September 1st is officially Ryan Pace’s day. Thursday night can’t come soon enough.
Happy Ryan Pace Day!