Cody Whitehair

Chicago Bears may already have their starting center on the roster

The Chicago Bears’ biggest offseason priorities included a wide range of positions. Defensive line, wide receiver, and offensive line ranked at or near the top.

General manager Ryan Poles addressed — sort of — the defensive line with the addition of DeMarcus Walker, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal in free agency. His positional versatility makes him an appealing option as an interior player on passing downs.

Wide receiver was solved in the blockbuster trade for wide receiver D.J. Moore, who will immediately become Justin Fields’ best and most explosive target in the passing game.

As for the offensive line? Guard Nate Davis, an exceptional talent who’s been significantly underrated over the last few seasons, is an instant upgrade. And it’s for more than just his presence alone.

Nate Davis

Signing Nate Davis gives Chicago Bears flexibility at center

By adding Davis, the Chicago Bears now have the flexibility to move veteran Cody Whitehair back to the position where his career started: center.

Center was one of the biggest weaknesses on the Bears’ roster in 2022, and it was a position analysts expected Chicago would target in the first wave of free agency. Many top free-agent centers are already off the market, leaving the Bears to find their starter in the 2023 NFL Draft or return to Whitehair.

Poles met with the media Thursday and hinted that the latter is the likely outcome.

Ryan Poles said the goal this season is to field the best combination of interior offensive linemen in the starting lineup, which likely means Davis, Whitehair, and Teven Jenkins.

Bears offensive line

Cody Whitehair has a strong history at center for Bears

Whitehair logged 1,014 snaps at center in 2016. In 2017, he totaled 705. In 2018, he had 1,139, followed by 561 in 2019 and 490 in 2020. He hasn’t played center in either of the last two seasons.

Indeed, Whitehair’s best seasons as a pro have been at the pivot. Three of his four top Pro Football Focus season grades came in years when he was primarily a center. He’s a smart player with a high football IQ and possesses the power and good enough athleticism to man the middle of the offensive line.

Cody Whitehair will turn 31 this summer. He has at least a few good seasons left in him, and if he settles in as the Chicago Bears’ center in 2023, he could go from salary cap casualty to another multi-year contract with the team.

Whitehair has started all 107 games he’s played as a Bear. There’s no reason to think that’ll change this season, even if his position does.

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