Goldman will not play for the Bears this season
As part of the agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, players are being allowed to sit out the 2020 season. Each player who decides to opt-out due to COVID-19 will receive partial salaries for this year.
One of those players is Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman. He is one of many high-profile players who have already decided to skip this season (understandably so), as players are reporting for training camp and undergoing COVID-19 testing. Losing Goldman under any circumstance is a major blow to this Bears defense.
Goldman is one of the top young defensive linemen in the league. Since his rookie year in 2015, he's posted 153 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks, and 20 quarterback hits. Goldman is especially effective against the run, and opposing offensive linemen often have difficulty blocking him. But the Bears will need to move forward and they'll need to find an effective way to fill Goldman's spot in the lineup.
Akiem Hicks has played nose tackle in the past, but he's a starter at defensive end and the anchor of the Bears' front. He will certainly help pick up the slack from Goldman's absence, but he was going to start regardless. Here are five players who could play an even bigger role along the defensive line, assuming they don't opt out as well.
If there was ever a chance to earn a roster spot, this is it for the recent free-agent signing. His production has been down in recent seasons, as he's only made 1.5 sacks since 2015, didn't register a TFL or QB hit for three consecutive seasons (2016-18), and failed to post double-digit tackles for the first time since 2016. Jenkins has the size (6-3, 325) to play nose tackle, but he hasn't played in a 3-4 scheme since his first go-round with the Bears back in 2017. If he can prove himself at this positon again, then he'll have a place on this team in September. But Jenkins arrival to camp will be delayed after it was announced this week that he was placed on the COVID-19 list.
The former Delaware standout is capable of playing both end and tackle positions. Nichols has yet to play a full 16-game season in his career, but that could change this year now that Goldman won't be available. This could also be Nichols' chance to boost his career numbers as he hasn't recorded a sack since his rookie year of 2018 (3 that year), only made one tackle for loss last year, and the Bears will need him to step up in Goldman's absence.
Anderson saw limited playing time as a rookie out of Bucknell last year. He only recorded four tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, and one quarterback hit in six games in 2019. But here is his chance to establish himself as a star in the NFL.
The undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State probably has the tallest hill to climb out of all of the defensive lineman on the current roster. He only played in 12 games for the Bulldogs over the last two seasons, and his lack of experience shows in the stat sheet (23 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 0.5 sacks). But the NFL is all about opportunity, and this is Autry's chance to earn his.
Like Autry, McSwain is also an undrafted free agent. But unlike Autry, McSwain was a consistent contributor during his college days at Duke. He was a starter for three of his four years in a Blue Devils uniform and certainly deserved his playing time (103 tackles, 14.0 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles).
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.