Contract years for players traditionally bring a heightened sense of necessity for a season attractive enough to justify payday, a potential nonexistent for certain players. Now for players who currently lend their talents to one of the fieriest teams in the league, this may come a tad easier. As eye-catching as a Harvard degree on a resume, playing for the Chicago Bears offers some of the prettiest credentials for players, especially for the heavier contributors.
Already has cornerback Bryce Callahan landed a twenty-one million deal and safety Adrian Amos snagging thirty-six million in free agency. Franchises view Bears stars at a premium, otherwise negating hometown discount, and the Bears will need to begin dishing out the big bucks to hold onto their own. This, however, assumes a spectacular season worthy of the big bucks, in which we take a looksie at. Here are the players running headfirst into a contract year and what must be accomplished to justify their next contract.
Cody Whitehair, Center
Obviously, Whitehair exhibited himself as a cornerstone of the top notch offensive line and will be a guarantee to be offered a second term. The only question surrounding him this season will be what his position will be for his fourth season in the league and how the Bears choose to proceed financially. The emergence of the on-the-rise guard James Daniels was massive to the success of the offensive line but in order to extract his fullest potential, he may fit more naturally as a center. Coincidentally, Whitehair can and has easily flipped between both interior positions.
And honestly, moving Whitehair to guard to aid more in containing the elite interior rushers in the league may pay off well. The interior line struggled mightily against Eagles’ star Fletcher Cox during the playoffs and Whitehair could potentially be the key to wangling an extra quarter-second for the offense, almost through pure size alone. Whitehair packs about twenty more pounds than Daniels and nearly matches his mobility, allowing him to ward off elite pass rushers more effectively.
Whitehair flourished as a guard in his first couple of seasons and easily could handle the transition. However, this move might be a mistake for the team financially, since his price tag will take a steep upcount as a guard. But considering, statistically speaking, he has been listed as a pure center for the entirety of his career, he doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage. Besides, how often does an offensive lineman throw a fuss over contract disputes?
Either way, the first time Pro Bowler, quite safely, should be a lock for a long term deal this offseason. Commandeering the offensive line, his durability and versatility have proven to be far too vital to the Bears rushing attack to let him walk. From here on out, the twenty-six-year-old center (or guard, depending on whom you ask) will only be entering the prime of his career and having earned the trust of the team, must be around for the long haul.
Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety
The Bears eyed him in the 2014 draft and the recently signed Clinton-Dix has already made a sizable impact on the city, both in his previous stardom coming at a gracious discount and in, well, the obvious name department. In either respect, the former 2nd team All-Pro safety will be a clear upgrade over the departed Amos, developing into one of the leagues’ most explosive playmakers when in his bag.
While maybe a dangerously similar safety to fellow Alabama product and now-teammate Eddie Jackson, the pure star-studded-ness of this defensive back corps needs to overcome any concern over the run stoppage or any toe stepping. Simply put, the duo dominated college football and should expect to do just the same in the pros.
The initial one-year aspect of this one year deal came as slightly head-scratching to the continued sculpting of the defense but Clinton-Dix, especially at this price, should be a trademark in the defense for as long as he physically can be. So long as he does him and settles into the elite pedigree, he will be due a long-term deal. Clearing up eleven million from Mack definitely had a Clinton-Dix (and a Whitehair for that matter) deal in mind.
Danny Trevathan, Middle Linebacker
Unlike the other two on this list, Trevathan has a couple more question marks that may, in fact, lead to the Bears simply moving on from him. Firstly, the Bears have managed a gleaming gem in Roquan Smith. Almost Trevathan 2.0, both share such similar skill sets yet Smith, outside of pure lapses due to his rookie-ness, just has an elevated physical presence relative to Trevathan. Both are slightly undersized but speedy and explosive manifesting in an unparelled sideline-to-sideline ability, almost like bulky safeties floating in the middle.
In a way, they compliment each other perfectly, nearly eliminating passing attacks alongside the phenomenal secondary. However, in another way, this also could spurn the belief of expendability. Since Smith can accomplish his job (and probably see it be done better, as well), Trevathan’s role will, unfortunately, lie as Smith’s sidekick, especially after the massive leaps we can safely expect from the Georgia product this season. Currently making around seven million a year, to pay an inessential deputy even anything near that amount won’t be worth it.
Another factor will be his age. Nearing thirty years, he finally proved he could stay healthy for an entire season but in the event he goes down again, it will be time for the Bears to rethink their options. Mix in Smith and it may not be worth keeping around, even on a short-term contract.
As the spread revolution rages on in NFL playbooks, the draft will steadily begin to produce more and more speed at specifically the middle linebacker position a la the prototype Smith, leading to finding linebackers similar getting easier and easier. Already Michigan’s Devin Bush fits the mold and these types of players will only become increasingly common. Dropping five to seven million on an aging linebacker with an identical clone hiding in the draft for far less will only further stricken the cap nightmare the Bears will imminently crash into.
Unless Trevathan can assert both his cruciality and durability to elite and sustainable levels all on a heavily slashed price, the Bears will need to move on.