A Bears defense that still finished in the top-10 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings despite some notable regression figures to get a key cog back in the mix in 2021.
To be clear, Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai can’t confirm Eddie Goldman’s plans to play in 2021 right now. But Desai offered this in his introductory press conference:
Bears DC Sean Desai asked if Eddie Goldman will return next season: “Our expectation is that he will want to play.”
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) February 15, 2021
Again, it’s not in ink. And if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that pencils come with erasers because nothing is ever a given. But that Desai shared his belief (and expectation) that Goldman wants to return in 2021 makes me feel better about those chances.
Goldman, 27, was one of the highest-profile opt outs in 2020. Chicago’s stud nose tackle exercised his right not to play due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic in late July ahead of the August 1 opt-out date. Whenever Goldman returns, he’ll resume the contract extension he signed in 2018. In other words, Goldman will be on the books for a $7.8 million cap numbers, $4.75 million base salary. And don’t even think about cutting Goldman for the sake of creating cap room. Parting ways with Goldman this offseason would mean the Bears lose $5.05 million in cap space with a $12.85 million dead money hit. So if Goldman returns, you can lock him into the middle of that Bears defense with a smile.
The 2020 season would have been Goldman’s sixth with the Bears as an anchor in the middle of that defense. As expected, Chicago missed Goldman — particularly early in the year. Remember when Chicago was feverishly looking for help at the position, even inquiring about Damon “Snacks” Harrison? The Bears eventually moved onto lower-profile depth signings, then mixing and matching players on game day. Ultimately, that need subsided and the Bears got on the right track. But the need was real at the time.
The Bears ultimately pieced it together to plug holes in the run game, where Goldman was missed most. But there’s a distinct difference in Goldman’s abilities to eat up blockers, clog running lanes, and collapse the interior of the offensive line, and what his replacements did in his absence. I’m not taking anything away from John Jenkins, Brent Urban, Bilal Nichols, or anyone else who lined up in the middle of that defense. That trio (and others) did a bang up job holding down the fort. It’s just that Goldman is a top tier player at a position of scarcity. And that shouldn’t be overlooked.