Ryan Poles shares details behind cutting both Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair

Ryan Poles shares details behind cutting both Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Close to two weeks ago, the Bears alleviated some cap space by cutting longtime veterans Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson from the team.

Along with the move being a cap saver, Ryan Poles talked to the media at the NFL Combine, sharing details behind the thought process of the move.

"I know we put a piece out on them, but I just wanted to say thank you to them for what they've done for the Bears," Poles said. "We felt like it was the right time to give them an opportunity to test the market and see what's out there for them. I wanted to do right by them and do it as early as possible so they can put their plans in place."

Indeed, Poles cut both veterans on Feb. 15, a hair under a month away from the start of NFL free agency on March 13. That should give both veterans plenty of time to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and find a new home.

That respect spreads across all Bears players from the front office, too. Poles mentioned he hopes to do right by Justin Fields, too, in case the Bears decide to trade him away in favor of drafting a new quarterback.

"If we go down that road, I want to do right by Justin as well," Poles said. "No one wants to live in gray. I know that's uncomfortable. I wouldn't want to be in that situation, either. We'll gather the information. We'll move as quickly as possible. We're not going to be in a rush. We'll see what presents itself and what's best for the organization."

As for Whitehair and Jackson, their cuts were strongly motivated by creating cap space. By cutting them from the team, the Bears opened up $21.7 million in cap space, boosting them to the third-most space in the NFL at around $80 million. The Bears will have to pay a dead cap on the remainder of their contracts, however.

Whitehair holds a dead cap value of roughly $4.1 million, about 1.66% of the cap, according to Spotrac. On the other hand, Jackson holds a dead cap value of around $5.5 million, roughly 2.26% of the Bears' total cap room. The two represent the only significant dead cap payments the Bears will carry with them into the 2024 season.

Both veterans will certainly find new teams to play for in 2024.

Jackson, 30, was once an All-Pro cornerback. And despite struggling between 2020-21, he bounced back with a four-interception season in 2022. He didn't have a stellar year in 2023, but he finished with an interception, five pass breakups and 37 tackles.

As for Whitehair, he should draw some interest in a depleted center free-agent market. Behind Jason Kelce --- who is expected to retire --- Whitehair holds the highest AAV (average annual value) among centers, just north of $10 million.

The center free agent market includes Connor Williams, Brian Allen, Mason Cole, Andre James, Aaron Brewer, and then it falls to Whitehair's de facto backup last season: Lucas Patrick. Hence, Whitehair shouldn't have trouble finding work next season, despite finishing with a suboptimal season in 2023.

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