Projected Starters: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Mitch Unrein
This starting crew has been a lock for some time. There is a good chance that by the end of the season rookie Jonathan Bullard pushes Unrein out of his starting role.
Depth: Jonathan Bullard, Will Sutton, Ego Ferguson
The only one set here is Bullard. Both Sutton and Ferguson have been underwhelming so far in their careers. There is still a chance that one or both could be pushed out of their roster spots by Cornelius Washington and Terry Williams. Washington has been the “guy with great potential” for a couple of years now but seems to be showing noticeable improvement in camp and preseason action and would likely be the one to displace Ferguson. Terry Williams, who is just a massive man (6’1, 320 lbs), isn’t the quickest off the ball but as a nose tackle he occupies a lot of space and can clog both “A” gaps.
Best Case: This group also looks to improve this year with Eddie Goldman going into his second year and the addition of Hicks and Bullard. The depth here is ok but with the amount that Fangio likes to rotate the line it would be nice to have one or two more players step up. That being said there is a solid core here that will give the opposition headaches.
Worst Case: The starting three are all known quantities without a history of injury so the floor for this group is pretty high. It’s difficult to see a scenario in which this crew is below average.
Cap Hit: Eddie Goldman (1.3 mil), Akiem Hicks (4.5 mil), Mitch Unrein (1.1 mil), Jonathan Bullard (656k), Will Sutton (761k), Ego Ferguson (1.1 mil). It’s amazing to me how many players on the Bears are still on their rookie contracts. This trend continues for this group with 4 of the 6 on rookie deals. Their combined cap hit is under 9.5 mil for 2016. This means that 12th ranked Geno Atkins by himself has a bigger cap hit in 2016 than the Bears defensive line starters and back-ups combined. This unit is a definite bargain.
Projected 2016 Ranking: This group will be judged primarily by how it stops the run. That being said this group should rank around 12-15.
Next: Inside Linebackers