The Chicago Bears and their first-round draft pick Roquan Smith agreed to a contract on Monday. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Smith’s contract with the Bears is worth $18.4 million with $11.5 million guaranteed.
All rookie deals are four years long with a team option for the fifth season.
Smith was the last of the first round picks to be signed from this past April’s draft. The contract dispute kept Smith from playing in the Bears’ first two preseason games. He is expected to be in Denver this week with the team as they take on the Broncos for two joint practices and a preseason game on Saturday night.
It appears that Smith will have enough time to get acclimated and play on opening night at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. While the holdout was frustrating for both sides, a deal is done, and that’s all that matters at this point.
The question now is what does this mean for the Bears going forward?
Third-year LB Nick Kwiatkoski was starting next to Danny Trevathan during Smith’s absence. Things are about to change now that the former Georiga Bulldog signed and ready to hit the field. While Kwiatkoski is a very nice player, it is foolish to compare him to Smith.
Too many fans did this during the holdout, which again, is foolish. Kwiatkoski and Smith are nowhere near the same level of player. The best way to describe Smith is this – he has a natural awareness and instincts to find the football.
That doesn’t mean Kwiatkoski doesn’t have those abilities. It just means they are not on the same level as Roquan’s.
Kwiatkoski will remain the starter for a little while. Especially, considering that Smith missed all of his rookie training camp. Depending on how things go, Kwiatkoski may be the starter week one just based on the fact he had more time and reps with the first-team defense.
However, that will change whenever Smith gets comfortable, which could very well be before week one. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will now be able to use Kwiatkoski in more of a pass rusher role. Considering the Bears current depth chart at the edge rusher position, that is a good thing.
Over the last two seasons, Kwiatkoski has 66 tackles to go along with three sacks in 25 games played. At times last season, Kwiatkoski showed he could put pressure on the quarterback.
— Jake Perper (@BearsBacker) November 19, 2017
The violent spirit that he plays with will also help him get to the QB.
Nick Kwiatkoski knocked La'el Collins into another dimension. pic.twitter.com/ApPhzuiYcU
— White Wolf (@whitewolf) September 26, 2016
The addition of Smith will allow Kwiatkoski to explore other roles on the defense. That makes him even more valuable than he already was, especially as a pass rusher.
With this whole messy Roquan Smith contract dilemma, I feel like many Bears fans forgot about how good of a player he really is. Hence the constant Kwiatkoski comparisons. I wanted to remind people of what the Bears are getting with Smith.
Some called him the best defensive player in college football last season. Yes, better than Bradley Chubb. The point is Smith has the skill-set to be that kind of bigtime difference maker. At Georiga, he played a rover type position. In other words, he was sent to roam around and cause havoc.
This is a kid who became a leader for a team that went to the National Championship game. Last season, Smith made 137 tackles. No, that is not a misprint – 137 freaking tackles. That is 42 more tackles that he the season before and 117 more than his freshman season.
In Fangio’s defense, LBs have to be solid in coverage. Smith is just that. Actually, calling him solid wouldn’t do him justice. Our very own Bears writer Jack Soble pointed out Smith’s unique abilities in coverage here:
Smith should fix these coverage errors if he’s healthy for all 16. Does an excellent job staying with a slot WR and preventing a score: pic.twitter.com/JgZwgdJfbA
— Jack Soble (@JS_92_) May 10, 2018
Smith starts this play in what appears to be zone coverage over the middle of the field, lining up on the left hash of the 15-yard line. Subtly, immediately before he’s cut off the screen, his head turns and he picks up the receiver in the slot, closest to the right tackle, revealing that the coverage was a disguise (something Fangio loves to do) and he’s matched up one-on-one.
As the play collapses, Smith stays with his newfound man and tracks him all the way to the corner of the end zone. It’s mightily impressive than any inside linebacker can match up stride-for-stride with a wideout, especially for as long as he did with Auburn’s signal-caller extending the play.
The emphatic knockdown is what most viewers notice the most about this play, but by then his job had already been done. Swatting the ball away was the easiest part of Smith’s work in this particular instance. He recognized his responsibility immediately, was in perfect position the entire time, and stayed with his man all the way to the finish line. That’s the perfect example of a Fangio linebacker: smarts, instincts, speed, and deception.
Smith can really do everything a linebacker would ever be asked to do on a football field. That makes him such an intriguing player coming into the NFL.
Ryan Pace Focus
Obviously, general manager Ryan Pace’s main focus has been getting Roquan Smith signed. Now that it’s done, he can focus on other matters, which may include upgrading the roster. Specifically, at the edge rusher position.
He could also spend some time trying to extend future free agents like Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos. Goldman has to be the priority here, but bringing back Amos on a reasonable deal makes a lot of sense as well.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @TLS_Petrusevski–Feature Photo Credit: Getty Images