Bears to try Cody Whitehair at center after Nate Davis free agent deal

Bears will try Cody Whitehair at center this summer originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears have been one of the most active teams in the early stages of free agency, whether it be signing guys to big contracts, like Tremaine Edmunds, to adding backups on value deals, like Travis Homer. But the most interesting signing was probably right guard Nate Davis.

On the surface, there’s not much to the signing. A reported three-year, $30 million deal with nearly $20 million guaranteed. He’s known for athletic run blocking but is a solid pass protector too. He’s young and he makes the Bears offensive line better. But the context surrounding the signing leads to some questions. Davis has only played right guard in the NFL, where Teven Jenkins was a revelation last season. Does Davis’ addition portend Jenkins heading back to the bench? Will he get another shot at right tackle? Or will the Bears move on from Cody Whitehair at left guard and move Jenkins to a new position, again?

Ryan Poles spoke about the Davis signing on Thursday and didn’t fully elucidate the team’s plans for his interior linemen, but he did share a possibility for Whitehair’s future.

“I’ll stick to this, we’re going to put the best front five up there but I also think there’s some flexibility and some conversations where Cody could work some center,” Poles said. “He’s got almost 4,000 snaps there. Had some good seasons there. So we’re going to move it around a little bit and see if we can get the best like front three possible.”

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Whitehair began his career at center, including a Pro Bowl season in 2018. Lately, he’s been the team’s left guard, and in 2022 it looked like he had lost a step in his game. That led some to believe Whitehair could be a cut candidate this offseason, but for now it looks like the Bears are willing to try Whitehair in a new spot to see if he still has a role in their starting lineup. Of course, if Whitehair takes over as the new center, that would raise more questions about Lucas Patrick’s future. He was signed in 2022 to be the team’s anchor in the middle of the line, but he barely played the position due to several injuries. Patrick got some play at guard, but struggled.

No matter how you look at the O-line, it appears there will be an odd man out. Will Whitehair be out of a job as the Bears get younger? Or will Jenkins lose his spot if Davis takes over right guard and Cody sticks at left? Or could Patrick be the man stuck on the sidelines if Whitehair enjoys a renaissance back at center?

“It's hard to say right now,” Poles said. “It's going to be competitive. We've been in communication with a lot of them and we're going to make that competition. But I think we feel comfortable with the group that's there that we're going to figure out the best interior group.”

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