Chicago Bears fans have worked tirelessly to get the wider national media to recognize an undeniable truth. Roquan Smith is a superstar. One of the best linebackers in the NFL and it is no longer up for debate. Not after his 2021 season. A year in which he had 163 tackles, three sacks, and a pick-six. It is one of the best all-around seasons a linebacker has ever had in Chicago, and that is really saying something given the NFL royalty that has played that position for this team.
There is one silver lining though. It would seem that many around the NFL itself have begun to recognize how great Smith is. Bob McGinn of Go Long TD spoke to multiple scouts about the best defenders in the NFC North. The Bears star was ranked #1 among linebackers. Somebody with a tremendous mix of speed, discipline, and instincts. In fact, there is a growing belief there might be a gold jacket in his future if this keeps up.
Did yeoman’s work in the fourth season of what is starting to look like a Hall of Fame career. “He is a good fundamental tackler,” said one scout. “He runs sideline to sideline with the best of them. His screen reading ability is one of the top two in the NFL … he doesn’t freelance. He doesn’t go rogue on you. He runs the defensive system. He understands how to put people in the right places … he’ll be up for a big contract soon. I wouldn’t be afraid of paying him.”
That might sound premature but not according to the numbers.
Keep this in mind. Smith doesn’t turn 25-years old until April. In four seasons, he has 524 tackles, 14 sacks, and five interceptions. By comparison, Brian Urlacher had 510 tackles, 21 sacks, and six interceptions in his first four seasons. Urlacher was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Smith is right there with him. If he can stay healthy and keep producing as he had then a shot at Canton goes from fantasy to reality.
It would be helpful if the Bears can start putting together more winning seasons. Get him into the playoffs where more eyeballs can see him. Hopefully, win a Super Bowl too. That would be something that really cements his chances. Fair or not. It sure did for guys like Bill George and Mike Singletary. It is just further proof that the legacy of defense in Chicago remains in capable hands with the next generation.
Roquan Smith faces a somewhat uncertain future
The Bears did pick up his 5th-year option for the 2022 season. So he is under contract for another year. However, one would think the team is quite interested in locking him up to a long-term extension. It seems rather obvious given he’s by far their best player who is 26 or younger. He has more than earned it. There is a complication though. The GM that drafted him, Ryan Pace, is no longer in charge.
Chicago is in the process of finding his replacement. There is no telling what will happen once that occurs. Logic dictates the new GM will simply pick up where Pace left off. Working to ensure Roquan Smith stays in navy blue for the next several years. However, these sorts of changes can create unpredictability. It is possible the new regime might not view linebackers as a priority when building a defense.
Crazier things have happened.
Speculation aside, the future remains bright for Smith. He is playing his best football yet and still has room to get even better. If the Bears can continue to surround him with a capable supporting cast, there is no reason to think he can’t make the Hall of Fame. It would forever put to bed which franchise has the best linebacker legacy, if nothing else.