The Chicago Bears have spent a lot of time cleaning out their salary cap over the past few months. GM Ryan Poles seems intent on gaining as much flexibility as possible in the coming years. That said, questions remain on what he plans to do with Roquan Smith. The linebacker is now the best player on defense and maybe the entire team after an outstanding performance in 2021. One would think his looming extension is a lock.
Except some people aren’t sure about that. Don’t forget Poles wasn’t the one who drafted Smith back in 2018. That was Ryan Pace. New GMs often prefer to fill up a roster with players they acquired. However, one thing that has become clear with Poles is he’s a pragmatist. If he senses capability in somebody, be it a player or even a scout, he has no concerns about keeping them. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the belief is Chicago will prioritize extending their defensive centerpiece later this summer.
“Expect talks between the Bears and Smith to heat up some time this summer. Even other Bears players close to free agency believe Smith is the priority for Chicago and new GM Ryan Poles. Smith has worked his way into top-10 linebacker status thanks to versatility and production. He has compiled 14 sacks, 17 pass deflections and five interceptions on his way to back-to-back second-team All-Pro nods.”
The timeline makes perfect sense.
With the 5th-year option in place, Roquan Smith is under contract through 2022. That gave the Bears plenty of time to address any extension. Poles focused on free agency and the draft the previous two months. With those out of the way, he has plenty of free time in June, July, and August to sit down with the linebacker and work towards a new contract. Remember that Smith has no agent. He is negotiating for himself. That could make things a bit more complicated.
Either way, it is welcome to hear the Bears’ stance on him hasn’t changed. He is a central part of their future. The kind of player a defense can be built around. It isn’t a stretch to think that if Smith continues at his current pace of production, he’s making a stronger and stronger case for the Hall of Fame down the line. It would help even more if the team could get back to winning in the next few years. Smart bets say he gets somewhere around $20 million per year.