Akiem Hicks - Signed through 2021 - Hicks is probably the best free agent signing by the Chicago Bears since Julius Peppers, and general manager Ryan Pace got him originally on a 2-year, $10 million deal. Now he’s a Pro Bowler and and do-it-all anchor up front that has lined up all along their d-line. I’m interested to see how new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, with his more aggressive and zone blitz ways, will utilize Hicks. Could we see Hicks drop off the line into the flat zone on the rare occasion?
I’m so ready for a Keith Trayloresque interception return by big number 96.
Eddie Goldman - Signed through 2022 - Goldman is an underappreciated talent because he plays the most underappreciated position on the team, nose tackle. In a recent podcast from my guy Bill Zimmerman, he interviewed Akiem Hicks and Hicks lauded the outstanding play from Goldman. His numbers will never be sexy, but he’s doing the dirty work and his teammates all appreciate him.
Bilal Nichols - Signed through 2021 - I liked the tape I saw from Nichols during his time at Delaware, but I didn’t expect him to contribute this much as a rookie. He played the fourth most snaps on the d-line (328) and took over as the starting defensive end by the end of the year. With his combination of strength and quickness, he’s a candidate for break out Bears player of 2019.
Roy Robertson-Harris - Exclusive rights free agent - Robertson-Harris really came into his own in just his second season as a full time defensive lineman, and I think he still has room to grow as a player. I expect the 25-year old to return to the Bears and build off his 2018.
Did you realize that RRH tied for third on the team with 11 quarterback hits?
Jonathan Bullard - Signed through 2019 - There were high hopes when Bullard was drafted in 2016 that he’d turn into the steal of the draft, but he’s only made a handful of plays in his time as a Bear. In three years he’s appeared in 45 games, but he has only started 5 of them. His playing time went from 341 total snaps in 2016 to 500 in 2017, but the emergence of Nichols and RRH in 2018 cut into his time and his total snap count dropped to 364 last season.
Bullard is a serviceable rotational defensive lineman, but those early expectations for him has soured a lot of fans on his play. As the fourth or fifth guy in the mix — who is capable of a spot start — I think he’ll will be around for at least the final year of his rookie contract.
Nick Williams - Free agent - The Bears might bring Williams back as some veteran insurance depth, but he rarely played in 2018. I think the Bears would rather a youngster show up and take the 6th DL spot on the roster.
Abdullah Anderson - Signed a reserve/futures deal - I thought Anderson flashed a bit last preseason, and it would not surprise me to see the 23-year old win a spot on the 53-man roster with a full year working on his craft.
2019 OUTLOOK - I would expect the Bears to add a UDFA or two, and maybe even another hungry veteran to compete, but I don’t see them spending a draft pick on the position. The Bears are solid one through five, but someone to push Bullard would be nice.