Eddie Jackson
Eddie Jackson — USA Today Sports Image

The Bears are likely to make Pro Bowl alternate C Cody Whitehair and first-team All-Pro S Eddie Jackson very, very wealthy sooner than later. In the meantime, they each earned strong bonuses on top of their rookie-contract salaries Thursday for their contributions via the NFL's performance-based pay program awarding all players based on their play time and salaries.

Whitehair, who became eligible for an extension this offseason, has started 49 consecutive games to begin his career and has a strong rapport with Mitch Trubisky, likely rating him as the Bears' top offseason extension candidate. In the meantime, he earned an additional $118,320 bonus for last season, No. 19 among all NFL veterans, when he was the only Bear to play every single snap and committed a career-low four penalties after 13 combined from 2016-17 on the NFL's No. 9 scoring offense.

Jackson had an even better Thursday. It began with him earning an additional $435,024 — including $323,451 in performance bonuses and $111,573 from the league's veteran pool — for his spectacular sophomore season, ranked 11th in the NFL. "Bojack" then learned that he's being reunited with friend and former Alabama teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the Bears' secondary this season.

Unlike Whitehair, Jackson can't sign an extension with the Bears until the conclusion of the 2019 campaign. Assuming the Bears' ultimate plan in fact is to lock up both standout performers long term, the two negotiations will be tricky but for different reasons.

For Whitehair, his agency (CAA) must ensure it knows the Bears' intentions regarding its client's long-range position. Remember, he manned every spot on the line except center at Kansas State, and though he was locked in at the pivot last season, like in his rookie year, he played some guard in 2017. Moreover, there are several people who know O-line play much better than me — think former Bears legends — who say that Whitehair and Daniels would both benefit from a switch.

So if there's any thought inside Halas Hall of flip-flopping Whitehair and LG James Daniels, it could loom large in his negotiations. To wit: The NFL's top five earning guards all average north of $11 million per year and received at least $23 million guaranteed. At center, only Mitch Morse, who just struck it rich in Buffalo, received more than $11 million AAV, and only Tampa Bay's Ryan Jensen was guaranteed more than $21.5 million.

Jackson's contract figures to be even richer than Whitehair's, especially in light of the way the deals recently signed by Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas just completely reset the market. Here's the thing: If Jackson's 2019 encore is anything like what he did last season, when he picked off six passes — including punctuating back-to-back wins — and scored three touchdowns, he should surpass Collins as the highest-paid player at his position.

You probably have heard it by now, but Jackson's five touchdowns in his first two seasons are the most by any NFL defensive player since 2015 — two years before he entered the league. That's the mark of an elite playmaker. By contrast, fellow elite safeties Thomas, Mathieu and Collins have combined for four touchdowns in 19 seasons.

Linking back up with Clinton-Dix, whose playmaking ability far exceeds the player he'll replace, Adrian Amos, Jackson's career arc might only continue to climb. And he's only 26.

Of course, the Bears have other extensions they're probably already preparing for. Danny Trevathan, though hardly a near-cinch like Jackson and Whitehair, enters a contract year and is coming off easily his best season in Chicago as he approaches age 29. It's possible the Bears will look for a cheaper Roquan Smith sidekick, but Trevathan is one of their defensive leaders, who eased Smith's transition and has done everything the right way here. It wouldn't be stunning if his contract was tended to either before of after Whitehair.

Tarik Cohen is also eligible for a new deal next offseason, and Mitch Trubisky could be extended early, too, though not likely before 2021. Indeed, now that the Bears appear to have a sustained formula for success, a lot of the focus wisely will turn to retaining their own, as Ryan Pace said at the combine. Perhaps this week's restructure of Khalil Mack's contract, after recently redoing Kyle Long's and Eddie Goldman's, to add salary cap flexibility wasn't for more short-term signings but long-term investments.