Bears pass on injury-plagued Kevin White's 5th-year option
As expected, the Bears did not pick up the fifth-year option in 2019 for injury-plagued WR Kevin White, who has played in just five games in three years since the Bears selected him seventh overall in the 2015 draft. The news was first reported by NFL Media's Mike Garafolo.
That option would have cost the Bears $13.92 million, which is the average of the top-10 salaries for all wide receivers, but the hard-luck White remains under contract for 2018. Of the 32 first-round picks in 2015 whose options had to be picked up before May 3, 20 of them were re-signed for a fifth year.
Last year the Bears declined the fifth-year option on their 2014 first-round pick, CB Kyle Fuller. But he responded with a career year in 2017, and the Bears made him their transition player, hoping to work out a long-term deal to keep him. When the Packers gave Fuller an offer sheet, the Bears exercised their option and matched the four-year, $56 million deal rather than lose him to Green Bay without compensation.
It's unlikely that White will enjoy a renaissance in 2018 like the one that catapulted Fuller to his lucrative deal. White missed his entire rookie season, after what was considered a minor case of shin splints failed to heal. That resulted in season-ending surgery on his left tibia (shin), which included the insertion of a steel rod for stability and to facilitate healing. He spent the entire season on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
The big, fast and strong White returned in 2016 and showed small glimpses of his vast potential, catching 19 passes for 187 yards in the first four games. But he suffered a season-ending spiral fracture in his left fibula and a severely sprained left ankle in a game against the Lions in which he caught six passes for 55 yards.
The 6-foot-3, 216-pound White, who ran a 4.35 40 at the combine, started the season opener in 2017 but went down for the remainder of the season with a fractured shoulder blade after catching two passes for six yards. He looked close to full speed at last month's veteran minicamp.
"Kevin right now I thought looked sharp," coach Matt Nagy said after the first minicamp practice. "He played fast. He showed strong hands. He's a big, physical guy. Confidence, right? He did a good job."
But the Bears added former Pro Bowl WR Allen Robinson, ascending TE Trey Burton and slippery slot receiver Taylor Gabriel in free agency, and they drafted Anthony Miller in the second round and Javon Wims in the seventh, so White will have to battle for playing time this summer at training camp and show that he can remain healthy.
When he spoke about White at the scouting combine, Bears GM Ryan Pace said he believes he still has all the physical gifts that made him such a high draft pick, and Nagy seemed committed to giving him every opportunity.
"Kevin is a guy who hasn't had a lot of games these past few years," Nagy said. "We understand that, but for me, that's the challenge as a head coach. You love to see those kinds of situations, and you don't make any promises that anything's going to happen. But you see a kid like that, you know his road and where he's at, and I look at that as a personal challenge to get him to a place where we want to get him."
• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.