Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace faces a difficult decision this offseason with his first ever first-round pick, Kevin White.
Pace must decide whether the Bears will exercise the fifth-year option clause in White’s rookie contract, one that would keep him in Chicago through 2019 but pays him a salary equal to the top-10 receivers in the NFL.
White was drafted by the Bears with the seventh-overall pick in 2015 and has since played only five games. His 21 catches for 193 yards and zero touchdowns is hardly worth paying top dollar for, but he hasn’t had the chance to prove his value to the team.
Pace faced a similar decision last offseason with Kyle Fuller, the then-underachieving former first-round cornerback who was coming off an injury-riddled 2016 season. The Bears declined Fuller’s fifth-year option and now he’s set to become one of the top cornerbacks on the free-agent market after a breakout year in 2017.
If Pace can’t reach an agreement with Fuller on a long-term deal, the Bears may be faced to slap him with the franchise tag.
It’s not out of the question for White to have a similar breakout year in 2018. A lot will depend on what Pace does in free agency at wide receiver, but if there’s a path to playing time available to White, one has to assume he’ll stay healthy and finally give the Bears a long look at what his maximum upside is.
The danger the Bears face by exercising White’s fifth-year option is that it becomes fully guaranteed for injury. With White’s history of poor health, it’s a major gamble.
Chicago has until May 3 to decide on White’s option. If they strike big at receiver in free agency, expect Pace to decline. If, however, they fail to sign any of the bigger-name pass-catchers, keeping White under contract through 2019 could become a necessity.
The Chicago Bears are eager to line up behind Kevin White and proclaim the former first-round pick the No. 1 receiver.
What seemed inevitable when selected with the No. 7 overall pick in 2015 became a necessity after top wideout Cameron Meredith went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Regardless of the lack of playing time and meager production, the Bears thrust all their optimism toward the third-year pro this week.
First up, Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains:
“Yes, I believe [White can be a No. 1 wide receiver],” Loggains said, via ESPN.com. “And obviously he’s going to have to be, because he’s the guy with the experience and he’s talented and he should be in a featured role.”
Next, starting quarterback Mike Glennon:
“Yes, Kevin definitely can [be a No. 1],” Glennon said. “Kevin’s got the size, the athleticism, the strength. He has what you’re looking for. He hasn’t been healthy. I think we just need to all give him the opportunity to be that guy and I think he’ll show that this year. I have a real close relationship with him. I worked with him in the summer, just the two of us and then all the time in practice. It might not show up in preseason games, but again preseason isn’t the same as regular season as far as game-planning and all that. So, Kevin will be just fine.”
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