The Chicago Bears and general manager Ryan Pace have had a busy off-season. Starting with hiring head coach Matt Nagy, followed by an impressive Free Agency and draft haul. Despite such an active off-season, they find themselves sitting around $24 million in cap space to play with, even after eventually completing the final rookie contract in eighth overall pick Roquan Smith.
Each year it seems as if Pace prefers to take around $20 million into training camp for in-house extensions, or even last minute signings like Josh Sitton. Regardless, the fourth-year general manager has done an impressive job of maintaining salary cap flexibility as well as quality amounts of rollover space into the following year.
When Pace was asked about a potential extension in the coming weeks, he said there was no official update. However, he did say he’s pleased with the progress of potential talks.
Over the past two seasons, the team has given out three contract extensions before week one, with two of those coming last season in the way of Charles Leno Jr. and Akiem Hicks. In the coming weeks, the same opportunity will be available to lock up a key player or two. Their focus may be on the more important of those two, nose tackle Eddie Goldman.
Reasons to Extend
With the current 90-man roster, the Bears have roughly $71 million tied up on the defensive side of the ball, in comparison to the $91.4 million invested on the offensive side.
Currently, the team’s defensive line ranks fourth in positional spending on the roster. The only big contract comes in the way of Hicks at the position, which allows for another reasonable expense.
With a collection of young talent behind Hicks at the five-technique position, they have plenty of flexibility within the overall budget to extend the 24-year-old.
Over his first three years in the league, it’s been no secret that the Bears defense is at their best with him on the field, and there’s a sizable drop off without him in the lineup. It’s also worth noting that Goldman’s role in the nickel was expanded. This makes him more of a three-down defensive linemen, compared to some of the others players that could be on the market next March.
Reasons to Wait
I’ve thought long and hard about any reason why the Bears might want to wait on an extension to Goldman, but much like Akiem Hicks last year, I couldn’t find one.
The reality is quite simple — He’s an ascending talent who has shown the ability to be a three-down player that finally stayed healthy for 15 of the their 16 games this past year.
If the Bears choose to wait on a deal, they’re likely to regret it.
Obviously, this is just speaking of the team’s decision, not Goldman’s preference — who may also choose to test the market for a higher pay day in March.
Pace drafted Goldman, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has had all three years with him, so it’s more than likely that they know what they have in him. It’s also more likely that their value of him is close to what Goldman’s camp will have, as well.
Goldman’s value may be somewhat hard to gauge due to the difference in perceived value of a 3-4 nose tackle, versus the more traditional 4-3 one-technique.
Contrary to that distinction, the average price of a top 10 defensive tackle is hovering right around $13 million per year. Things could get interesting, even for a nose tackle that averages less than 60% of snaps per game.
The large difference between players like Fletcher Cox, Jurrell Casey, Hicks and the Bears’ young run stuffer, is simply sack production and snap percentages on a yearly basis.
While someone like Goldman could rack up more sacks as a five-technique, his biggest value comes from stopping the run as a two-gap defender up the middle. Especially with the recent draft pick of Roquan Smith (who will thrive when the defensive line is keeping things clean in front of him).
Goldman’s age, combined with his upside, will help him cash in, but the fact that he has yet to play a full 16-game season heading into his fourth year is also something that must be taken into consideration, especially when looking at a long term deal.
Here’s an idea what to look for on the high and low side of an extension this summer:
High point: Brandon Williams (Ravens) - 5 years/$52.5 million with $33.75 million guaranteed
Williams’ deal was signed last off-season, as he tested the early Free Agent market but opted to return back to the Baltimore Ravens on a deal averaging $10.5 million per season.
At the time of the deal, he was 28-years-old, but a more proven commodity than Goldman (at this point in his career).
Even with the cap rising another $10 million since this contract was signed, this is likely the most Goldman would see in a deal. Especially given Williams plays the same exact role in the same front, as a more established producer.
Low point: Nick Fairley (Saints) - 4 years/ $28 million with $14 million guaranteed
Sadly for the former Detroit Lion, he was never able to play football on this deal. Shortly after signing, a critical heart condition was discovered and he failed to play another snap in the NFL.
This contract is just a year old and he was 27-years-old when signing. Granted he’s more of a pass rusher than Goldman is, but he was an ascending talent with a similar ceiling.
When looking at lower contracts, the drop off from $8 million per year to $5 million per year came quick. So, this makes projecting the low side a bit more difficult.
What Goldman Should Expect to See
Just look at the deals signed over the past two off-seasons from similar players in similar roles, and you’ll see the going rate for a rising and/or proven nose tackle averages around $9-10 million per year. For Goldman, that price won’t be any different, even with an early extension.
It’ll pay in the long run to lock Goldman down now, even if the price doesn’t seem like much of a discount in August.
Projected Deal for Goldman:
5 years/ $47.5 million with $26.5 million guaranteed