Bears Cut Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair, Create $21.5 Million in Cap Space

The Bears made their first significant moves of the offseason by cutting safety Eddie Jackson and center Cody Whitehair, creating an estimated $21.5 million in cap space according to Sportrac. Whitehair’s previous contract with the Bears earned him north of $10 million annually; Jackson’s contract was worth just over $14 million per season. The veterans have three Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Whitehair, who was benched last season due to snap issues, was due a $13.25 million cap hit in 2024. Jackson enjoyed a career resurgence after Chicago hired head coach Matt Eberflus. He had an $18.1 million hit due on the team’s books. Both were drafted by Ryan Pace and were two of the Bears’ longest-tenured players. Jackson had a career year in 2018 with six interceptions and three defensive scores.

It’s interesting to note that the Bears no longer have any players drafted by the team before 2020. Cole Kmet is the only rookie drafted by the previous regime to earn a contract extension. It’s going to be interesting to see what the future holds for Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney. The Bears could apply a franchise tag to Johnson, and Mooney will probably enter free agency.

Elijah Hicks moves to the top of the depth chart at free safety, and he’ll pair with Jaquan Brisker unless GM Ryan Poles signs a free agent or drafts a rookie to replace Jackson. Antoine Winfield and Kyle Dugger are notable free agents, and Poles now has $66 million in cap space to work with.

Among rookies, Javon Bullard is a dynamic but undersized defender from Georgia who reminds scouts of Brian Branch. Like Branch, Bullard has great instincts and a well-rounded game. He is expected to be a Day 2 draft prospect. Bullard also plays excellent man coverage on elite tight ends.

Bullard seems like the type of defensive back who could thrive under Eberflus. The Bears struggled against the league’s better tight ends the last two years. Bullard is also a dangerous blitzer who displays fantastic vision. He and Brisker would be a formidable pair defensively. Bullard also has the strength to fight through blocks and is gifted with tremendous closing speed. The back end of the draft is deep with safeties, though none project as starters.

Replacing Whitehair is a little more complicated because the Bears must still decide on a quarterback. Though Chicago’s offensive line has improved, only Darnell Wright can be depended on. Teven Jenkins has been a solid performer when healthy but has trouble staying on the field. The Bears have two first-round picks but are expected to acquire extra picks by trading the No.1 overall or incumbent QB Justin Fields.

Jackson Powers-Johnson is a center with a combination of strength, power, and agility that enables him to own the point of attack. Powers-Johnson, a product of Oregon, is the top-rated center in this year’s draft. Graham Barton of Duke is another option, though he projects as a guard at the pro level. Barton and Powers-Jonson are expected to go in the first round and center is one of Chicago’s biggest needs.

The draft is probably Poles’ best option to replace Whitehair and Lucas Patrick. The interior offensive line group is considered the weakest position of the 2024 free-agent class. Still, Denver’s Lloyd Cushenberry will find a market for his services. Dolphins center Connor Williams would be at the top of this year’s class, but he tore his ACL in Week 14. Andre James of the Raiders is also an option.

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