If the Chicago Bears can find a positive from Eddie Goldman opting out, it is that Bilal Nichols is ready to step up
Eddie Goldman opting out for the 2020 NFL season was a surprising hit to the Chicago Bears roster before the kick-off of the year. It is going to be hard for the Chicago Bears to replace the value that Goldman provides.
However, if there were a position to do it, it would be on the defensive line. The Bears are fortunate in that their defensive line depth is up there with the best in the league. In fact, the emergence of Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols have reduced Goldmans playing time.
RRH is not going to see a huge change in role, although he will see more pass-rush work. However, as a one for one comparison, this could be a huge chance for Nichols to prove his worth as an NFL starter.
The biggest detriment to come from Goldman is his space clogging and run stuffing. As the season went on, Nichols starter to emerge as a run-stuffing specialist, while RRH was his counter pass rush helper. So, this should mean that on early downs, when Goldman was expected to clog the run, the Bears will be relying on their third-year defensive tackle in Nichols.
This could be a huge step up in role for Nichols, but nothing says he does not deserve a crack at it. Nichols has outperformed most defensive lineman drafted ahead of him from the 2018 class.
Through two seasons, some of the most comparable players to Nichols on paper are Domata Peko, D.J. Reader, Grady Jarrett, Ziggy Hood, and Andrew Billings. Guys like Reader, Jarret, and Peko saw an increase in snaps in year three and never looked back. At the worst, he is comparable to NFL starters, and if thrown into NFL starter snaps, should be able to prove his worth.
Playing for a contract
2021 will be the last year that Nichols plays on his rookie salary contract. If he has a big year in 2020, he will put the Bears in a spot where they may feel obligated to extend him. He also may have bumped his price to a point where is one year away from a serious payday on the open market. There is a lot on the line for Nichols and a lot of reason to think that he can make the most of his chances.
Losing Eddie Goldman hurts. However, getting a chance to see Nichols flash in a bigger role and prove himself is going to be very exciting for the Chicago Bears 2020 defense.