Best Bears Options as Eddie Goldman's Replacement
Considering defensive line was one of the deepest areas on this Bears roster, the reported loss of Eddie Goldman due to a COVID-19 opt out was something the team should be able to absorb.
Then again, there are levels to any absorption of this type.
The Bears have legitimate depth when it comes to nose tackle for the first time since 2017 because John Jenkins is their backup. He was the backup the last time they had a bonafide nose tackle as a backup.
Much of the time the Bears have gone with 3-4 defensive ends and flipped them into the nose tackle role. This might be fine for a pinch, but in the long term it requires a nose tackle with bulk and the ability to make an occasional play besides occupying interior blockers.
In 2017 Jenkins did this for eight games for the Bears but in 2018 and 2019 they were back to using defensive ends as backup at the spot. The Bears had Goldman relatively free of injury in those two seasons. He missed the finale last year with a concussion.
They could just use Jenkins there and rotate one of the other defensive ends into the backup role, or there is a choice or two available in free agency.
Free agency isn't something the Bears seem prepared to take advantage of because of their salary cap situation.
It's not that they're unable to do it. Spotrac.com has them at $14.4 million available on Tuesday.
This is more a situation of how it affects their future salary cap and possible contract negotiations with Allen Robinson II. They were hoping to use some of their available cap toward the extension for Robinson, but the COVID-19 cap situation for 2021 is going to severely limit how much they can spend if any.
They'll have to make a choice between whether they have the proper backup situation or they should take money away from what they could use for Robinson and spend it to obtain possible alternative at nose tackle.
If an injury of this type occurred during the season, the best option would be to rely on Jenkins and slide some players around as backups.
However, because of the time still remaining until the regular season and the fact no team had an offseason, the Bears might want to explore the defensive line options available.
Two names in particular jump out among those unsigned. One is former Detroit Lion and New York Giant Damon "Snacks" Harrison. The other is former Jaguars defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.
What kind of shape either is in is a big question.
Harrison has played around 350 pounds and had some minor nagging injury issues the past few years. Dareus is a little lighter, but not much, 335-340. Either one could be a plug in the middle. Harrison is actually more of a play maker and was a particular thorn in the Bears' side in 2018.
Harrison was one of the league's best run-stuffers for a four-year period from 2014-2018 according to Pro Football Focus.
Dareus has an injury issue. His core muscle was separated from his pelvis last year and repaired with surgery. Whether he can even play again has to be a question. The Jaguars declined an option year on his contract because it was for $20 million but still wanted to try and negotiate a lesser amount with him.
Dareus was the third pick of the 2011 draft out of Alabama and is 31 years old now. He's had two NFL substance abuse policy violations and could be regarded as a risk in that regard.
If they wanted to go old, Domata Peko, the former Bengals and Ravens nose tackle is trying to stay in the league at age 35.
If the Bears didn't care if this player was a nose tackle or a defensive end, they could opt for former Packers and Lions defensive lineman Mike Daniels or former Eagles defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan. Daniels is a bigger player at 310 and played in a front like the Bears use when he was with Green Bay. Jernigan wouldn't be a good fit at 292 pounds. He's more of a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3.
The financial concerns might make their best option just staying with what they have and possibly sliding Bilal Nichols to the nose if they need to do it if Jenkins is resting or injured.
At 313 pounds, he's only 5 pounds lighter than Goldman is and if it's only a series or a few plays he should be able to handle the position physically.