The Bears’ leadership tandem of Ryan Pace and John Fox didn’t offer much with regard to future roster construction during their year-end press conference on Wednesday, but did allow for speculation on what is in store for Cody Whitehair’s future.
To be clear, Whitehair isn’t going anywhere. He ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ 10 best rookies and as their sixth highest-graded center, providing stability at the position for the first time since Olin Kreutz retired. Further, Whitehair will be in Year 2 of his rookie contract and his play assured him solid footing for a starting job in 2017. Again, he’s here for the long haul.
But at what position he will start has yet to be determined.
Pace briefly addressed the offensive line situation during Wednesday’s press conference, starting his tangent by saying the unit “can’t have enough depth.” In that vein, he highlighted the positional flexibility of his players along the line – with the exception of Hroniss Grasu, a second-year center who missed the entire season due to a torn ACL.
Grasu is a center-only in Pace’s eyes, a starting-caliber one at that if he proves to be healthy and productive in 2017. That would mean the Bears would have to move Whitehair off position a year after garnering major praise as a rookie at a new position.
Why is Cody Whitehair not getting Maurkice Pouncey levels of hype? What he's done yr 1 already far more impressive than Pouncey's rookie yr
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) January 5, 2017
It’s worth noting that Pace didn’t have much interest in moving Kyle Long off right guard, adding that Long is at his best when focusing on one position – even though he proved to be flexible when the team moved him to tackle prior to the 2015 opener despite practicing all preseason at guard. Josh Sitton is the least likely to move, seeing that he performed as a top-10 guard.
That leaves Whitehair as a player likely to move – possibly to one of the potential openings at tackle where the Bears do not have a long-term solution. Even though Whitehair played guard in college and his PFF pre-draft scouting report suggested he could play tackle, his skills seemed to flash brightest playing an interior position.
It’s way too early in the offseason to be worrying about such a move, but it does put the idea of moving pieces along the line on our radar when spring practices and summer workouts draw nearer. Maybe by then, Grasu can prove to be a moveable piece. Or the Bears could have two brand new tackles protecting a new (or familiar) face at quarterback.
As of right now, the only certainty is that the offensive line projects to be strongest in the middle.