The Bears restructured Pro Bowl alternate LT Charles Leno's four-year, $38 million contract, converting $7 million from base salary to signing bonus and freeing up $5.6 million in extra cap room this season, ESPN's Field Yates reported Wednesday morning.
The obvious question: Why?
It's possible — likely, even — that this move signals Cody Whitehair is about to receive the contract extension many of us have been predicting for months now. He recently had an injury scare in practice, another layer of volatility for a player already selflessly moving from the center position where he was an All Rookie and Pro Bowler to left guard, a spot he's yet to play full time as a pro. It certainly would make sense if Whitehair is feeling particularly motivated to reach an agreement now, and likewise for the Bears.
And the only other logical extension candidate at the moment is LB Danny Trevathan, but even amid a terrific camp coming off his best season with the Bears, if not as a pro, receiving a new deal now might be a longshot with younger, homegrown candidates looming next offseason, when Trevathan is currently slated to hit the open market.
According to the latest NFLPA cap report, the Leno restructure increases the Bears' 2019 cap space to $21.4 million — more than enough to get Whitehair's extension, with an average estimated salary of $11 million according to spotrac done. Additionally, the Bears would have a comfortable emergency reserve in place for the season.
Of course, until Eddy Pineiro is making pressure kicks in the regular season, we won't know for sure whether the Bears are comfortable with him as their latest hand-picked potential heir to Robbie Gould. We'd still be surprised if the Bears, who are already carrying north of $4 million in dead cap after the post-June 1 release of Cody Parkey, look to acquire another high-priced vet. But if we learned anything from hearing six doinks off his leg last year — including four in one game — it's to never say never.