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Saturday Spotlight: Eddie Goldman

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we’ll spotlight a Bears player in a weekly column. This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at Defensive Lineman Eddie Goldman.

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Name: Eddie Goldman

Position: Defensive Lineman

Number: 91

Age: 27

Time with Bears: 7th Season

The Past:

“Being away from it just kind of killed me, you know?”

Eddie Goldman is made of the right stuff.

Out of high school in D.C., Goldman was an consensus 5-star recruit, and some sites like ESPN had him listed in the top-10 of all players nationally. His high school All-American honors require scrolling down to finish reading the list. His recruiting scouting report reads like a draft scouting report.

In fact, the only defensive lineman who was consistantly ranked ahead of Goldman was future college - and Bears - teammate Mario Edwards.

In February of his senior year of high school, Goldman officially committed to attend Florida State University, to play for coach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles. Goldman chose Tallahassee over offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Miami, among a laundry list of other schools.

A good decision on Goldman’s part, as he avoided the redshirt and saw action his freshman year. He recorded a tackle for a loss against Wake Forest, finished 2012 with 8 total tackles, and FSU went 12-2 on the year. Goldman played in the ACC Championship game, which his team won, and was an Orange Bowl Champion that year when his Seminoles took Northern Illinois to the cleaners 31-10. The number Goldman wore in his freshman year, #81, was to honor Carl Eller, a mainstay on the defensive line for the “Purple People Eaters” Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s. Bears fans will have to forgive him.

In 2013, Florida State’s starting defensive linemen Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins graduated. The Seminoles also hired Jeremy Pruitt as their new defensive coordinator. Enter Sophomore Eddie Goldman at defensive end, switching his number to 90 and his string to first. For his statistically big games that year, Goldman logged 1.5 tackles for a loss and a sack against Nevada, and then had half a sack against both Syracuse and Idaho. He finished the year with 19 total tackles, including 3 for a loss, through 13 starts. Florida State dominated the ACC Conference and the country, going undefeated on their way to the National Championship. Goldman was no small part of a defense which led the NCAA in scoring and was third in defensive yards per game.

With a college championship behind him, Goldman sets his sights higher. He was going to show NFL scouts he was ready for the big stage.

2014 was Goldman’s last year in college, and Florida State saw another transition at defensive coordinator, hiring Charles Kelly. Goldman, now a Junior and leader on the team, moved further inside the defensive line, where he was one of the nation’s top defensive tackles. His career game came in September against the Deshaun Watson-led Clemson Tigers. With only a few minutes remaining, Goldman stripped the ball out of the running backs hands to preserve a tied score and force overtime, then in OT recorded a sack and helped stuff a 4th down run to set up the Florida State offense on a walkoff. Goldman finished his junior season with 35 total tackles, including 8 TFLs and 4 sacks, and was First-Team All-ACC.

Florida State v Clemson

In 2015, Goldman announced he would enter the NFL Draft. Interestingly enough, that NFL Draft actually took place in Chicago, and Dick Butkus announced the Bears’ second-round selection:

“With the 39th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select...and I like this...Eddie Goldman. Nose Tackle. Florida State.”

The draft report on Goldman was everything the Bears were lacking for years: extremely stout at point of attack, tough to move in the run game, and great work with arms and hands to disengage blocks. His challenge would be to remain a 3-down defensive lineman with his size.

Goldman wasted no time finding a starting role for new head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The rookie logged 12 starts that year through 15 appearances. His 4.5 sacks his rookie year remain a career-best, and were good for fourth-most among all rookies. His 22 total tackles as a nose impressed the Pro Football Writers of America enough to earn him a spot on the All-Rookie team for 2015. Goldman finished the year on IR, though it was a late injury. Even still, Goldman was helping this Bears defense find their way again, one stuffed-run at a time.

In 2016, the injury bug took a bite, and Goldman missed most of the season with a bum ankle. He again ended the year on IR, but before that logged 24 total tackles, 2.5 sacks through 6 games played.

2017 was a resurgent year for Vic Fangio and the Bears defense. Kyle Fuller developed into one of the league’s top cornerbacks, Akiem Hicks came to town to make life hard for the rest of the NFC North, and Eddie Goldman took his first steps towards becoming one of the league’s top nose tackles. Goldman logged 44 total tackles, had a sack against Tampa Bay and half of one against Carolina, and recovered a fumble for the first time in his NFL career. The Bears defense was top-10 in defensive yards per game, and Goldman was becoming a leader for them.

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The 2018 Bears were the best Bears team since Brian Urlacher wore #54 in navy blue, and Khalil Mack’s arrival in Chicago helped them lead the league in defensive rushing yards per game. Goldman signed a 4-year contract extension before the regular season began, and the Bears’ social media team had some fun with his name in the official announcement: “Gold Man.” He finished the season with 39 total tackles, 3 sacks, including a tackle for a loss in the Bears’ tough playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite the struggles on the other side of the ball, the defensive tandem of Goldman, Hicks, and Mack crashing a quarterback’s pocket from all angles made the Bears a terrifying force.

Goldman entered 2019 with more to prove. Starting at nose tackle for one of the best front sevens in the entire NFL was enough to boast about, but he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl the year prior. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio left to coach the Denver Broncos, and the Bears brought in former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to coach their star-studded defense. Goldman started 15 games for the Bears that year, putting up 29 total tackles and a sack. Chicago finished top-10 in defensive rushing YPG for a third year in a row. Goldman was again snubbed from the Pro Bowl voting, but managed to make it as an alternate. The league was starting to recognize Goldman’s status as a premier run stuffer.

The 2020 season was a strange one, with games played in empty stadiums and players opting out over concerns due to uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic. Goldman opted out of the season, and the Bears’ defense saw a significant drop in performance, specifically in run defense. They fell out of the top-10 for the first time since Akiem Hicks’ first year in Chicago, and Goldman was sorely missed down the stretch where teams exploited the Bears in the running game. Goldman’s return in 2021 would be a welcome sight.

The Present:

In Goldman’s absence, the Bears moved fellow defensive lineman Bilal Nichols to nose tackle, a move which took Nichols out of his defensive end role he was growing into and created speculation that the Bears wanted to develop a new nose tackle. After all, they could have just signed a one-year free agent to fill the role.

Goldman returned to the team this summer, though he skipped the volunteer organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Coach Nagy wasn’t thrilled, and neither were the fans.

Goldman did show up for the Bears’ official training camp. Every interview suggests he was excited to be back, and he actually stated the only regret that he has is that his teammates went to battle without him last year. Unfortunately, less than a week before the 2021 season opener, he suffered a knee injury which kept him sidelined until week 4.

This past Sunday, he finally made his return to the Bears. Although he didn’t log a single stat in the box score, his presence was felt when he did play. He was on the field for 31 defensive snaps, only 44% of the total share. That suggests the Bears are easing him back into action rather than risking re-injury.

Some may think he came back for the paycheck, but as this season progresses we’re going to get a much better look at how much of a force Eddie Goldman can still be in the interior of the line.

The future:

When Eddie Goldman signed his 4-year, $42 million contract extension a few years back, it set him up for potential free agency after the 2022 season. Then Goldman opted out of 2020, and per the NFL’s opt-out rules, that pushed every specific year of his contract down the road. Therefore, the Bears still have a contract in place for him for two years after this, and being 27 years old, that makes Goldman a great asset.

But then the cap figures. The Bears have already restructured his deal once, to make room in the 2019 cap. Per Over the Cap, a post-June 1 cut after this season would be an expensive one, but not nearly as expensive as his $11+ million cap hit each year after this. After seeing what Ryan Pace and company did asking Kyle Fuller to take a pay cut, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Goldman asked to take less money if he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this season. If he refuses, then keep in mind the Bears need to start spending money to form a team around Justin Fields. Look for activity one way or another with Goldman’s contract after this season.

In the immediate future, the Bears travel to Las Vegas to face the Raiders in a late afternoon matchup this weekend. Goldman isn’t listed on the injury report for the first time in a long time, and it’s assumed he’ll be ready to go on Sunday. Last time Goldman faced the Raiders, Josh Jacobs poked holes in the Bears defense and helped the silver & black rally for a 24-21 victory in London. Jacobs ran for 123 yards in that game, picking up another 20 yards through the air. The Bears have been stout against the run this year, with and without Goldman on the field. He should help the Bears keep Jacobs in check this time.

Week 5 prediction:

3 total tackles, 1 sack