By Michael Fitzpatrick
The Chicago Bears seemed none too pleased about Eddie Goldman missing minicamp earlier this offseason. Head coach Matt Nagy made it clear that the absence was of the unexcused variety and that the Bears were caught off guard. It’s not clear why exactly Goldman missed the mandatory minicamp. He still has three years left on his contract worth $22.9 million in yearly cash, according to Spotrac, so a holdout for a new deal seems unlikely. He did opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns over his history with asthma and COVID-19, so a second straight opt-out could have been on the table for Goldman during minicamp. Regardless, the windy city can breathe a sigh of relief because the man in the middle will reportedly be back for the start of training camp.
Getting Goldman back is huge for the Bears, both literally and figuratively. On the literal side, Goldman is a mountain of man, standing at 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales at 320 pounds. He can eat up blocks and allow guys like Roquan Smith to roam untouched and make plays.
Replacing Goldman last year was a nightmare for Chicago. There just aren’t many guys with Goldman’s combination of quickness and size, and all of them are on other rosters. The Bears tried bringing in free agents like John Jenkins and Daniel McCullers, but Bilal Nichols bumped inside from his more natural defensive end position and got most of the work at nose tackle. Nichols set a career-high in sacks with five, but his ability to get to the quarterback is what makes him better suited for being a defensive end. He wasn’t able to eat up blocks and devour running backs like Goldman has made a living doing, and the numbers bear that out.
In 2018, the Bears allowed 80 rushing yards per game and then allowed 102 in 2019. However, with Goldman out in 2020, the number was 113.4. Overall, those numbers over the last three years come out to 91 rushing yards allowed per game with Goldman and 113.4 without him. That’s a 22.4 yards per game difference. Goldman instantly makes the Bears defense, which was still top 10 in the league last season by DVOA, better.
An added benefit of adding Goldman back into the mix is that Nichols can bump back out to defensive end. This allows the Bears to go with the fearsome trio of Nichols, Goldman, and Akiem Hicks as the starters on the defensive line. Then Mario Edwards Jr. can mix in on pass rush downs instead of being asked to carry the load as a starter at defensive end.
Not only does Goldman make the defense better with his own play, but he allows new defensive coordinator Sean Desai to get the best 11 defenders on the field while putting all of them in the best chance to succeed. Goldman coming back is massive.