The 2023 NFL Draft could play a major factor in the fate of two Chicago Bears starters. The Bears currently have ten draft picks slotted for next week. However, a trade-up or down would change that number. That number should net the team several starters for next season. A Bears insider recently wrote that the outcome of the Bears’ choices next week could determine if the Bears cut Cody Whitehair or Eddie Jackson to save cap space.
Whitehair is under salary through the 2024 season. According to Spotrac, his cost to the Bears cap hit is over $27 million for the next two seasons. The Bears would save $9.9 million by cutting him after June 1. Although his dead cap hit would be $4.2 million in 2023. Jackson is due over $35 million for the next two seasons. Jackson’s cap hit would cost the Bears just over $17 million.
Would the Chicago Bears cut Whitehair or Jackson?
Brad Biggs with the Chicago Tribune was asked if the Chicago Bears would cut Whitehair or Jackson. Biggs thinks both are safe right now. However, the Bears might feel different if they find their replacement in the draft:
“The Bears won’t cut Whitehair unless they clearly replace him with a center via the draft. That’s a possibility, but the team has expressed confidence in Whitehair returning to center. They wouldn’t be doing him any favors if they released him after the draft.
The team also has expressed confidence in Jackson returning from his Lisfranc ligament injury. He played well last year and there isn’t a clear replacement on the roster. It’s not.” like the Bears are in a salary-cap crunch and need to create space by shedding a high-paid veteran. Right now, it looks like both players will be with the team this season. They can’t cut either one unless a clear starter is added.”
It seems unlikely the Bears would find Jackson’s replacement after drafting Jaquan Brisker last season. However, who’s to say general manager Ryan Poles doesn’t trade the nine pick back, pick up a late first or early second-round pick, and take Alabama’s Brian Branch? Poles taking Kyler Gordon, Brisker, and Velus Jones Jr. with his first three picks show anything is on the table for the Bears next week.
How safe is Whitehair’s job with the Chicago Bears?
Whitehair’s job seems less safe than Jackson’s. The Bears should draft an interior offensive lineman. Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus were at Ohio State’s Pro Day, and they had a chance to see three prospects for the offensive line in person, including a top center in the draft, Luke Wypler. Poles has said he wants to go local for top talent, and Illinois native and Minnesota Golden Gopher product John Michael Schmitz would fit that profile.
Poles will spend day one and early day two of the draft on other positions besides the interior part of the offensive line. However, if they find a year-one starter in the third round or later, cutting Whitehair might be a good option to free up cap space. Scrupulous cost-cutting is not needed this offseason, but the Bears must consider other long-term solutions if and when the team decides to extend Justin Fields.
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