Eddie Goldman - Signed through 2018 - Goldman has to prove to the Chicago Bears that he can stay healthy. I truly believe that a healthy Goldman will result in a Pro Bowl appearance. He only missed one game as a rookie, but last year he only played in six games. Chicago’s run defense needs Eddie Goldman manning the middle on the line.
Akiem Hicks - Signed through 2017 - I think the Bears were hoping Hicks was ready to have a breakout season, but I’m not sure they expected him to play near a Pro Bowl level. He had 54 tackles, 7 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, 2 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and a blocked kick. He stuffed the stat sheet after signing a 2 year deal for $10 million.
Jonathan Bullard - Signed through 2019 - Bullard was thought to be one of the steals of the 2016 draft. He then went out and looked like a player in the preseason games. But then he struggled to make a difference in the regular season. He was even inactive for a game last year. He has the potential to start at defensive end for the Bears in 2017, but now we’ll have to see how he attacks the offseason.
Mitch Unrein - Signed through 2017 - Unrein is OK as the 4th or 5th defensive lineman on a roster, but I hope someone comes in and outplays him.
Ego Ferguson - Signed through 2017 - Show of hands, how many of you forgot Ego was still on the roster? I though Ferguson would be an ideal fit for Vic Fangio’s 30 front, but he can’t stay healthy. He missed all of the 2016 season after only playing in 4 games in 2015. He needs to stay healthy and show the Bears’ coaches he belongs.
Will Sutton - Signed through 2017 - Before Sutton was injured, he started 6 of the 8 games he played in last year. At the very least, he and Ferguson will be in camp fighting for a job.
C.J. Wilson - Free agent - Wilson may have earned himself a job in 2017 after looking very active in the 6 games he played in last year. The 7 year pro will be in someone’s camp next season.
Cornelius Washington - Free agent - Washington picked a good time to finally make it through a season relatively healthy (15 games, 2 starts). His 364 snaps on D were the 3rd most among d-linemen on the team and he finished with 20 tackles and 2 sacks. He’ll turn 28 this year, so maybe he looks for an opportunity to start elsewhere. I don’t see the Bears offering him much more than the veteran minimum.
Kapron Lewis-Moore - Signed a reserve/futures contract - This doesn’t happen often, so I’ll own it when it does. Who is the Hell is Kapron Lewis-Moore? The weird thing is, I included him in this article I wrote last month, but his name did not ring a bell. The former Golden Domer was a 6th round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. He spent 2 years on injured reserve, before finally breaking though and appearing in 5 games in 2015. Last season he was on their practice squad, and the Bears signed him in January.
2016 OUTLOOK - The Bears have a lot of bodies on the d-line, but only 2 clear cut NFL starters, Hicks and Goldman. Unrein, Sutton and Washington all started games last year, and none really stood out. The key for 2017 is Bullard showing up ready to take control of the defensive end spot.
Unless they draft a guy...
Many mocks have the Bears going Jonathan Allen, the DE from Alabama, with the 3rd overall pick, and he’d be a guy that would push Bullard into a reserve role. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bears draft a defensive lineman at some point, maybe someone capable of playing the nose.
Since the Bears usually only play 2 defensive linemen in sub packages, they may not feel the need to sign a guy off the street. Then again, another C.J. Wilson type of player (maybe even C.J. himself again), could come in and fight for his NFL life.
What are your thoughts on the Bears’ defensive line in 2017?