After having his fifth-year option declined Wednesday, Bears receiver Kevin White won’t have to look far for inspiration in his walk year.
It’s as close as cornerback Kyle Fuller’s locker.
A year ago, general manager Ryan Pace decided not to pick up Fuller’s fifth-year option after — see if this sounds familiar — a season lost to injury. Instead, the first-round pick in 2014 went to training camp not guaranteed of a prominent role.
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Healthy and motivated, Fuller made the team, earned a starting spot and posted the best season of his career. He was rewarded for it after the Bears gave him the transition tag — they matched the Packers’ offer sheet for a four-year deal worth $18 million guaranteed.
The Bears will be open-minded when evaluating White’s future. But he has to stay healthy and perform first.
He has yet to do either in the NFL. White ranks among the biggest top-10 busts of the last decade. He has finished only three games in his three seasons. He missed his rookie season in 2015 after having preseason surgery on a stress fracture in his shin. A broken left fibula in his fourth game of the 2016 season cost him the rest of the year. He broke his shoulder blade in last season’s opener, leading to his option being declined, which would have cost the Bears $13.924 million in 2019.
Fuller, by contrast, started 30 games -before missing all of 2016 because of knee surgery.
The Bears spent the offseason preparing for life without White by signing free agents Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and drafting Anthony Miller in the second round. Tight end Trey Burton will serve as a de facto receiver, too, giving the Bears at least four more long-term pass-catching options.
Coach Matt Nagy has been blunt in evaluating White, saying that his “confidence hasn’t been where it needs to be” and that he needs to stack consistent practices.
“And then, when the game comes, he’s got to make plays,” Nagy said.
Nagy has praised White’s physical skills, saying that he could help the team this season. He’ll get every chance as the Bears will be motivated to have him break camp.
Only a year away from becoming a free agent, White has every incentive to do the same. If he can’t, he’ll never get a better opportunity elsewhere.