The Chicago Bears’ 2021 season is one we don’t mind leaving in the rear-view mirror.
With that being said, we’re looking ahead to 2022 and beyond. The Ryan Poles Era is underway. And with a new-look front office and a fresh set of eyes at head coach, a clean slate is at everyone’s fingertips. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into the offseason for a franchise that should be excited about changes on the horizon under its new leadership.
Today: Defensive line
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
(Ages in parenthesis)
Eddie Goldman (28) through 2023, Khyris Tonga (25) through 2025, Angelo Blackson (29) through 2022, Mario Edwards Jr. (28) through 2023
Did you know that Edwards and Blackson both have void years on their contracts that leave them with cap years beyond the expiration of their current Bears contracts? Well, now you do. According to OverTheCap.com, Edwards has void years in 2024 and 2025. That 2024 dead money hit comes in at $1,448,040. And while that is just 0.6 percent of whatever the projected cap number is for that season, it is an unsavory reminder of how the previous regime abused this cap circumvention tool for the sake of *gestures at last year’s nonsense*.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
Akiem Hicks (32), Bilal Nichols (25), Margus Hunt (34)
If Hicks isn’t back for 2022, then I’ll choose to remember the good times and not the unceremonious ending.
It isn’t as if there isn’t a shortage of clips worth sharing in this section:
Watching Akiem Hicks use an opponent to tackle a ball-carrier was one of my favorite things of 2020.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) March 21, 2021
“Akiem is the man. He doesn’t wear gloves. He got white tape. He just looks like … he looks like a Bear.”
And THAT is why I don’t believe the Bears are some 4-11-1 team. They’ve got Akiem Hicks. Other teams don’t.pic.twitter.com/bX6gcy6xw0
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) May 8, 2020
Who did it better? Fridge or Akiem?
📹: @nflthrowback pic.twitter.com/0Vn9s3xuom
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) April 13, 2020
Hicks’ agent made it clear the veteran was wanting another contract in Chicago. And Hicks, himself, let it be known that he was hoping to stay. Nothing ever came of either request. And at the end of the year, Hicks was reportedly beefing with his position coach. It was a frustrating year from all angles, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort from Hicks. The guy was the embodiment of what Bears want football to be. And yet, he’ll likely be playing elsewhere in 2022.
As for Nichols, who once looked to be the heir apparent to Hicks along the defensive line, his future with the team is even less certain. The Delaware product carved out a niche as a rotational defensive lineman in a 3-4 scheme, but never quite hit that next gear. How his skills translate to a 4-3 defense are unknown.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
Should the new regime want to clean house at the position, they could save some money by taking an axe to the defensive line room. They can start with nose tackle Eddie Goldman, whose play did not match his lofty cap number. Cutting Goldman would create $6,660,407 in cap space. Sure, it would come with a $5.15 million dead money hit. But it would be worth it for both parties to get a clean slate.
As for other possible cuts, the Bears could target players who were brought in to run the previous staff’s scheme. Perhaps someone like Angelo Blackson, whose cut would create $2.1 million in cap space. And while there isn’t much to be saved by parting ways with Mario Edwards Jr., $438,038 isn’t nothing.
Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com
POSSIBLE FREE AGENT FITS
(Age in parenthesis)
⇒ Tim Settle (24)
⇒ Maurice Hurst (26)
PFF’s TOP-5 DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS
⇒ Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
⇒ Jordan Davis, Georgia
⇒ Travis Jones, UConn
⇒ Logan Hall, Houston
⇒ Neil Farrell Jr., LSU
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
Because the previous front office exiled in unearthing solid defensive line contributors at different levels of free agency, late in the draft, and even in the post-draft free agent process, this would be a good time for holdovers from the old regime could make an impact. The Bears don’t figure to be spending gobs of money on the defensive line moving forward. But targeting players with something to prove and enticing them with short-term contracts that get the back onto the free agent market after showing out feels like the right play here. Especially if the team parts ways with players who might not be system fits for the new defensive play callers.