The Chicago Bears face a challenging next few months. One of the biggest goals for new GM Ryan Pace is figuring out what to do with Roquan Smith. It is no secret the linebacker has emerged as arguably the best player on the Bears’ defense. The 2022 season will mark his fifth in the league and last on his rookie contract. That means the team must stay active in their efforts to lock him up long-term.
It sounds simple, but this situation is more complicated than usual. The reason is Smith has elected not to hire an agent. He is negotiating the contract himself. That is not standard procedure in the NFL, making it more difficult for Poles and contract negotiator Cliff Stein. All that can be said is Smith likely expects to be one of the highest-paid linebackers in the league. His production speaks for itself, and he has every right to make that demand.
What it will come down to are the details.
One thing that isn’t uncertain is Smith’s view of Chicago. Many players have been quick to force their way out of town this offseason via trades. With a chance to become a free agent next year, some fear the defensive star may wish to leave the Bears. That doesn’t seem to be the case. During his latest press conference, he made it clear that he’s all in on this organization and plans to carve out his own legacy among Bears linebacker greats.
Hearing such comments these days is so refreshing. Many players often run from such challenges. They’re quick to cast off the team that helped make them a star for the biggest payday or getting a chance to play with a buddy somewhere else. Smith knows he’ll get paid. That isn’t an issue. He knows he has a home in Chicago and will be embraced by Bears fans as long as he continues to do what he does best.
Roquan Smith also likely senses what’s coming.
Matt Eberflus is the new head coach and brings with him a successful defense from Indianapolis. It is a defense that is known for making linebackers in monsters. Darius Leonard proved that for the Colts. The same system also made Lance Briggs a seven-time Pro Bowler and cemented Brian Urlacher as an all-time great. It is a scheme that emphasizes speed and running to the football.
That is what Roquan Smith does best. So it isn’t shocking he’s open to sticking around. There is a strong possibility that Eberflus will take his game to an even higher level. Leaving for an uncertain destination is far too risky. Better to stay, embrace the new system, and hope the organization can get the offense figured out.
It at least means one foundational piece is buying in.
That matters. If Smith were pushing to get out of town, it could have an ugly ripple effect on others on the roster. It also wouldn’t be a good sign of Eberflus’ first impressions on the players. Winning over the stars must be Step 1 for every new coach. It seems the 51-year-old cleared that hurdle.