Eddie Goldman was one of the first key defensive additions for Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio as they rebuilt the unit. But his staying and earning power could depend upon his ability to get after the quarterback.
First, nobody questions whether or not Goldman is a good player. He is a very, very good player. But the Bears have to decide exactly how much they value a run-stuffing defensive tackle in a passing league. But Goldman, according to media reports, is primed to become one of the league’s higher-paid defensive linemen. In order for that to happen, he’ll have to convince the Bears they don’t need to take him off the field on passing downs.
Goldman has shown the ability to get after the quarterback.
- As a rookie he managed 4.5 sacks and regularly generated pressure up the middle.
- In his second season he added 2.5 quarterback take downs in just five games.
- His total dropped to 1.5 in 2017, despite playing significantly more snaps.
As last season progressed, we saw less of Goldman and more of the athletic Jonathan Bullard. Over the team’s last six games – of which Goldman played five – Bullard averaged 54.7% of the team’s snaps to Goldman’s 41%. (That’s using only the games he actually played.) Perhaps the injury that cost him a game was lingering, but the fact of the matter is Goldman wasn’t getting to the quarterback enough when he was on the field.
This year, the Bears figure on having Bullard start and it wouldn’t be surprising to see last year’s snap counts continue in a division with Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers. You can also expect to see Roy Robertson-Harris on the field more in passing situations and rookie Bilal Nichols could get some run too.
So, where does that leave Goldman in a contract year?
Goldman is never going to be a great pass rusher and that shouldn’t be the expectation. Unfortunately, the Bears don’t have enough pass rush elsewhere to be able to survive without getting it on the defensive line.
This offseason, we saw run-stuffing defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Dontari Poe sign relatively big contracts. Like Goldman, neither are great pass rushers so it’s entirely possible the Bears defensive tackle is licking his chops at the kind of deal he could sign. He’s still only 24 years old. That’s younger than Bullard. Big contracts for run-stuffers are hardly guaranteed, however. This off-season we’ve also seen another run-stuffer, Jonathan Hankins, sit on the free agent market waiting for some team to pay him close to what the Colts gave him last off season — three years, $27 million.
If Goldman continues to lose snaps to Bullard, Robertson-Harris or Nichols, the Bears simply can’t justify giving him the kind of pay day other linemen have received.
The Bears have to be hoping Goldman can produce like Linval Joseph does for the Vikings – an immovable player who still pushes the contract. He’s done it in the past and if he does it again this season, you can expect he’ll be paid handsomely.