The Chicago Bears have some tough decisions to make regarding their defensive line this offseason. Most of the attention is centered on Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols. Both are free agents next month, and new GM Ryan Poles must determine if he wants to keep one or the other. At the same time, there is another elephant in the room to address—that of Eddie Goldman. Once considered among the two or three best nose tackles in the NFL, the 28-year old has lost a lot of his luster since returning last year.
There is no question 2021 was Goldman’s worst season as a pro. Not only was he invisible rushing the passer (eight total pressures), but he also wasn’t a huge factor against the run at times either. Something that was supposed to be his specialty. With Poles taking over and head coach Matt Eberflus installing a new defensive scheme, it is fair to wonder if Goldman’s time in Chicago is coming to an end. Analytics expert Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com sure made it sound that way.
“With a completely new regime in Chicago, you know the entire roster is under review. Goldman recorded just a 3.9 percent pressure rate in 2021, his lowest figure since NGS started tracking that in 2016. That’s a big cap number for a big man who could be on the decline.”
Money is always the biggest key.
Goldman is set to make $11.8 million in 2022. That is a lot of cheddar for a glorified run-stopper. Especially one whose value is going to diminish as the Bears shift from three defensive linemen to four under Eberflus. Given how limited the team is in cap space, it is looking more and more like the nose tackle could be a logical sacrifice to gain more financial flexibility. This sort of thing isn’t foreign to Poles either.
The Kansas City Chiefs had the option to pay two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe a big new contract. However, his struggles in 2016 convinced them it wasn’t the responsible thing to do. So they made the surprising decision to let him walk. Considering Poe only lasted four more seasons and played with three different teams, it’s clear they made the right decision in the long term.
I find it a bit annoying that Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season, then didn’t get vaccinated and now has COVID and has to miss extra time in 2021 because of it
— Jeremy Layton (@JeremyLayt0n) December 15, 2021
Replacing Eddie Goldman isn’t a big challenge anymore
The thing to remember is the NFL is always a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. You’re only as good as your most recent season. Maybe Goldman can recapture the old magic from 2018 again, but the Bears don’t have much evidence to suggest that will be the case. Even more so now that they’re switching scheme. Poles can’t let nostalgia and hope drive his roster decisions.
This must be about what is best for the team.
Right now, it looks like Eddie Goldman going elsewhere will serve Chicago better. The extra $6 million they would get by cutting him can be applied to other positions of greater need (and value). There is also a slight possibility they can trade him. Other teams might feel he can still regain his old form in the right system. Even a late round pick would be considered a big win for the Bears at this point.
The point is Goldman returned last year a different player. It is hard to say if rust played a factor or if his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. There were rumblings that he may have been contemplating retirement before choosing to return. Poles and Eberflus keep saying that they want guys that are 100% bought in. He doesn’t feel like their type.
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