Finley on the Defensive Line
From Patrick Finley and the Sun-Times – who now finally have a readable website thanks to the fine folks at WordPress:
If Pace is able to sign Goldman to a contract extension before the final year of his rookie deal — the Bears are trying — he could have two stellar talents locked up for the next four years, when Hicks’ deal expires.
The Bears, of course, have three starting defensive line positions.
Their interest in drafting someone to develop alongside Hicks and Goldman depends on how vital they view that third spot to be. The Bears typically rotate defensive linemen, lessening the need for an every-down end opposite Hicks, who played about 85 percent of the team’s snaps last year. In nickel and dime packages, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio often replaces an end with a linebacker in hopes of creating pass-rush mismatches.
The Bears never settled on an end to start alongside Hicks last year. Jonathan Bullard, who Pace drafted in the third round in 2016, played 40 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps, veteran Mitch Unrein 37 percent and former undrafted free agent Roy Robertson-Harris 20 percent. At the end of the season, Pace singled out Bullard and Robertson-Harris as players who made significant leaps during the year.
Perhaps as a result, the Bears didn’t add anyone to replace Unrein when he signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Buccaneers last month.
My personal belief is the Bears don’t put a tremendous value in this third defensive lineman position. They will continue to get production there from low-risk veterans and late draft picks.
Also, I have it on good authority that both Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio believe Jon Bullard can be a top player in the league. Not just good. Top. Has he shown that potential? No. At least not in the game tape. But they believe they’ve seen flashes.