Bears release veteran S Eddie Jackson, G Cody Whitehair

ByCourtney Cronin ESPN logo
Friday, February 16, 2024

CHICAGO -- The Bears released veteran safety Eddie Jackson and guard Cody Whitehair, the team announced Thursday.

Whitehair and Jackson, who were drafted by Chicago's previous front office, were the Bears' longest-tenured players on their respective sides of the ball. The moves save Chicago an estimated $21.5 million against the 2024 salary cap.

Upon the releases of Whitehair and Jackson, the Bears no longer have any draft picks made before 2020 on the roster.

Whitehair later posted his thanks to the Bears organization and fans on his social media pages.

Whitehair, 31, was drafted by Chicago in the second round in 2016 and appeared in 124 games over eight seasons with 118 starts. The versatile interior lineman played his first three NFL seasons at center before splitting starts at left guard 2019-20. Whitehair moved to guard full time for the 2021-22 seasons and was slated to move back to center in 2023 before an injury to Teven Jenkins shuffled Whitehair back to left guard for the first five weeks.

Once he moved back to center in Week 6, Whitehair was benched after several errant snaps and concluded the 2023 season with 11 starts. This was the first season in which he did not start every game he played.

Jackson, a fourth-round selection in 2017, started all 100 games he appeared in over seven seasons with Chicago. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and earned All-Pro honors in 2018 on the Bears defense that carried Chicago to its last NFC North championship. A foot injury shortened each of the safety's past three seasons, and his $18.1 million cap hit was the third-highest on the Bears roster.

Jackson, 30, totaled 15 interceptions, 44 passes defended, 10 forced fumbles and 459 tackles in his career. He is tied for third in franchise history with six career defensive touchdowns, five of which came in his first two seasons.

After a two-season drought without an interception (2020-21), Jackson moved from strong safety back to free safety after Chicago drafted Jaquan Brisker in 2022. During his bounce-back season in 2022, Jackson led the Bears with four interceptions in 12 games and became a defensive leader after Chicago traded linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Robert Quinn.

Last season, Jackson had an interception and 37 tackles in 12 games.

"I know [Jackson was] dinged up a little bit there, but I thought where his impact is really with Brisker and the communication on the back end," general manager Ryan Poles said when asked to evaluate Jackson's 2023 season. "When Eddie was in, you could tell Brisker felt really, really comfortable. Really that whole group, he really impacts the communication, and you could see that."

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