Eddie Goldman

Three free agents who could replace Eddie Goldman in 2020

Three free agents who could replace Eddie Goldman in 2020

Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman made the difficult decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, an option that was made available to him as a result of the NFL and NFLPA's agreement to return to play in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goldman's decision has left the Bears with few options to replace him on the roster. Veteran John Jenkins is the obvious choice, but he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week. Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols will do their part to shoulder the load, too.

The best place for Ryan Pace to look for Goldman's replacement might be the free-agent market. Several veterans remain unsigned, and three of them make sense for from a  run-stopping perspective.

According to a recent breakdown of players who can replace each team's opt-outs so far, Domata Peko, Mike Daniels, and Damon Harrison rank as three quality candidates to fill-in for Goldman.

Snacks Harrison would be the most appealing from this list, considering his experience playing in the NFC North with the Lions. He started 15 games for Detroit in 2019 and finished the season with 49 tackles and two sacks. At 6-3 and 350 pounds, Snacks fits the description of a run-stuffing dancing bear.

The Bears should have the salary cap relief to sign him, too. Goldman's opt-out frees up about $5 million in cap space, bringing the Bears to around $16 million under the cap. Harrison's deal with the Lions paid him $11 million last year.

Like Harrison, Daniels is an experienced NFC North defender who Bears fans are all too familiar with from his days with the Packers. Daniels has an ever-growing injury history, however, that dates back to 2018 and continued into 2019 when he appeared in just nine games. He managed just 10 tackles and one sack in his only season in Detroit.

Daniels' best days may be behind him, but he could be added on the cheap and at least provide the Bears with a quality rotational option. 

Then there's Peko, who at 35 years old is clearly at (or very close) to the end of his NFL road. Does he have one more season in him? Probably, considering he only played eight games in 2019 for the Ravens (including the playoffs) and logged just 158 snaps. He was much more active for the Broncos in 2018, when he managed 523 reps. 

Compare that to Goldman, who registered 467 snaps in 2019.

The point here is this: Pace has both the cap space and the veteran options required to get through a season without Goldman. Whether he takes advantage of it is another question entirely. No one would blame Pace if he decided to trust the options he has in-house in what's going to be such a crazy and unpredictable season.

Bears' Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy staunchly supportive of Eddie Goldman's 2020 opt-out

Bears' Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy staunchly supportive of Eddie Goldman's 2020 opt-out

The Bears take a lot of pride in their image as a family-oriented organization, something which was stressed again on Wednesday afternoon. GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy spoke for the first time since news broke that defensive tackle Eddie Goldman would be opting out of the 2020 season, and both spoke with conviction about supporting Goldman's decision fully. 

"You just recognize that this is personal for everyone and you’re just very respectful and supportive of that decision," Pace told reporters. "So both Matt and I talked to Eddie. We relayed that to Eddie. Eddie is an important part of our team and our family. And we’re going to welcome him back at the appropriate time, so I think you’re just really supportive of these individual choices when a player makes that ... But, yeah, we did reach out to Eddie and talked to him about this process and again, just very supportive and respectful with his decision.”

Not that it's the public's business, but no specific reason was given for Goldman's decision – teams aren't even permitted to speak on the matter any further than making an announcement that a player's opted-out. The Bears first heard from him via email, and soon after got in touch with the defensive tackle on the phone. 

"Having that discussion was very important to understand that for us, we completely support him," Nagy added. "I think that’s very important and everybody understanding, and he knew that right away. We told him we support him, we told him what we have – the education part, we told him what we have here so he knows – and that’s the decision that he decided to make. Like Ryan said on the front end: complete support.

"Everyone is so different with what their opinions are and we’re a family here. He’s a part of our family and this is what he chose to do and we just gotta make sure on our end now that we don’t flinch and we move forward. But he did it the right way and feel good about where we’re at and fully support him." 

Pace wouldn't say much about the team's schematic approach to replacing Goldman in 2020, only mentioning that he liked the depth at in the room already and line coach Jay Rodgers "gives us a lot of confidence with that position." Still, the GM didn't rule out a roster move – now, or in the future. 

"You know we are always looking at ways to improve our team and our roster," he said. "There is a lot of avenues for us to do that, it doesn't mean it has to be right now. But there will be opportunities ahead of us as well."

In Eddie Goldman's absence, here's who the Bears could bring in for 2020

In Eddie Goldman's absence, here's who the Bears could bring in for 2020

Bears fans woke up this morning (we're all sleeping until 10am these days yes?) to the news that stud defensive tackle Eddie Goldman will be opting-out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. First and foremost – and as Insider JJ Stankevitz wrote shortly after the news broke – good for him. Undoubtedly a difficult decision, Goldman should be commended for putting the health of himself and those around him before football. Bears fans who don't plan on welcoming him back with open arms in 2021 should maybe do some self-inventory. 

And for now, at least, the 2020 NFL season is still chugging forward as collectively bargained. Purely from the on-field production perspective, losing Goldman is brutal for the Bears. The team has encouraging amounts of depth on the defensive line, but Goldman is a uniquely talented player. He's an elite run-stopper, and as Danny Trevathan called him, an inside linebacker's "best friend." 

The cap ramifications aren't insignificant, either. Because Goldman had already received his $3 million roster bonus for 2020, the Bears will save around $4.8 million in cap space with the opt-out. That brings them to $16 million in total cap space right now – plenty to work with, should Ryan Pace want to venture back out into the free agent market. Even more good news for Pace: there are some intriguing names out there. Now granted, all of these guys remain unsigned as training camp begins and weren't on the Pace's radar until a few hours ago, but if they don't feel John Jenkins is the answer, there could certainly be worse free agent pools to choose from. 

The Obvious Name: Jadeveon Clowney 
Clowney really only appears on this list because of how deeply his market bottomed out this offseason, but he's on the board, so let's talk about him. He's very good! His pass-rushing career has been underwhelming so far, which is as evident under the surface (PFF's 34th ranked pass-rusher of 2019) as it is on top (31 sacks in six years). In an admittedly-intriguing twist of fate, Clowney's actually been a far better run-defender than pass-rusher so far. Consistency's a fair critique, but he's posted in 80+ run grade at PFF in every season after his rookie year in 2014. It's not a perfect fit; of the 712 snaps he played on last year, 514 came on the left or right edge. Another 143 came at left and right linebacker. You'll remember that the Bears don't exactly have starting edge jobs available at the moment, and even on a prove-it season, Clowney's probably not looking to be paid like an interior run-stopper/rotational pass rusher. 

Don't hold your breath for Clowney, but Bears fans who think it's a fit and are scared to tweet about it: you are seen. 

The More Obvious Name: Damon Harrison 
This one makes, like, actual sense and probably should happen? Harrison has been elite against the run for most of his career, the caveat being that well, last year, he wasn't! No one's perfect. Before a disastrous 2019 season in Detroit, Harrison had posted 90+ run grades in four straight seasons, and five of the last six. He led all defensive tackles in run stop percentage for four straight seasons (14-17) not too long ago. There's no way around how bad last year was for him – he had the 7th worst tackling grade of all defensive tackles who played last year – but I'd imagine there's still some hope that Harrison can be a productive player surrounded by all the Bears' defensive talent. 

Maybe Slightly Less Obvious Names, Maybe Not: Mike Daniels/Tim Jernigan
Daniels has had an up and down career with Green Bay and Detroit, flashing real pass-rushing potential in 2015 and 2017. He's never been a great tackler, and his run defense hasn't been great over the last two seasons. He only played in nine games before going on Injured reserve, so fresh start, fully-healthy, etc. 

Tim Jernigan's had his own health issues in Philadelphia, but has good numbers against the run and frankly at this level, it's probably John Jenkins' job to lose anyway.