The Chicago Bears might be struggling this year, but there are always pieces to work with. This series is counting down the seven players deemed by our writers as most likely to help the Bears turn things around.
#2 Roquan Smith (50 points)
Jack Salo: Pro Bowl linebackers and the Chicago Bears go together like movie theaters and popcorn. Roquan Smith, hopefully headed to his first Pro Bowl himself this season, has a chance to cement himself amongst Bears’ legends for years to come. He just needs a contract extension, to keep playing at the level he has been lately, and for the Bears to get much better in front of, and behind him, on defense.
ECD: This guy is the next great ILB for the Bears’ storied history at the position. Roquan is the blueprint for the athletic profile of athletes to develop at his position in the NFL. There should be no question as to whether he’s earned a new contract with the Bears or not. He’s the key guy to build around moving forward on defense.
Josh: He’s probably going to get paid. He will probably be paid too much for an ILB in a 3-4 system in any conventional sense. It doesn’t matter. He led the league in 2020 in defeats, and he has been everywhere this year. The dude does not give up, even when he has to know the game is “over.” If this team bounces back, #58 is going to be a big part of why.
Lester: Smith is about to get a big deal to be the leader of Chicago’s defense, and it’s well deserved due to his skill set and high motor. He’s just 24 years old and his best football is still in front of him.
Jeff B: All-ProQuan Smith - This is the dude. He’s emerged as the best player on the defense and absolutely someone you can build a modern defense around. Some may discount ILB in the modern game but this is a guy that makes plays sideline to sideline chasing down running backs, in the backfield blitzing quarterbacks, and down the field covering receivers and tight ends. He is the model of a modern linebacker, the antidote to the modern QB. Believe in him.
Rob Z: Roquan Smith is football’s best linebacker. Plug and play him in any scheme, on any team, and he owns the middle of the field. One of the smartest, fastest players I’ve ever seen. I rank him lower than my colleagues if only because I’m not sure how important an inside linebacker is anymore. Even with how young he is, Smith is certainly as good as any long-time legendary Bears linebacker and it doesn’t feel like it matters. There are simply other players more important to the Bears.
Sam H: He is the next great Bears LB. His speed, intelligence and tackling makes him a one-man wrecking crew and as the defense around him has gotten worse, the more he’s stepped into the spotlight. Pony up, we’re going to need him.
Smith continues to improve and has become an elite linebacker in the sport. Unfortunately, the point can be made that in the modern NFL, Roquan’s position is the least important on the defensive side of the ball, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best in the league at it and will continue to be an impact player in Chicago for the next decade.
Rob S: There is no single player on the Bears’ defense more scheme-and-team dependent than Roquan Smith, but when he’s kept clean against the run he’s the best player on their defense and will be for quite some time. He, quite literally, has the potential to be everywhere in both coverage and run-support, shutting down the likes of Alvin Kamara, Kyler Murray, Dalvin Cook, and others as they try to get the edge. He’s forceful when hitting, savvy in zones, and likely to become the Bears’ highest-paid non-Mack defensive player this offseason — that new deal will signal the impact the Bears’ expect him to deliver, and accordingly that places him quite highly here.
Behind? Get caught up: