The Bears’ 2018 season was equal parts successful and fun, though it’s finally time to move on. But before we get right to 2019, let’s take a position-by-position look at the roster – as presently constructed – to find out what’s in store for the offseason and upcoming year.
Today: Inside linebackers
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more ideal tandem at inside linebacker for a 3-4 defense than Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Trevathan provides the league’s top-ranked scoring defense with sure-handed tackling, grit, leadership and veteran know-how. And then there is Smith, who led the team in tackles as a rookie and whose play on the field made everyone forget about that lengthy summertime holdout. The arrow is certainly pointing up for Smith, who brings high-end athleticism, waves of football intelligence, and a unique prospect pedigree that comes with being a top-10 pick from an SEC powerhouse. Together, Smith and Trevathan provide strength up the middle in a place where teams used to gash the Bears via the run and the pass.
Beyond that dynamic duo, the Bears have depth at the position. Nick Kwiatkoski has starting experience, versatility, and skills as a blitzer and pass-rusher. Joel Iyiegbuniwe’s special team’s prowess should not be overlooked. Josh Woods and Jameer Thurman are waiting in the wings on another level behind Kwiatkoski and Iyiegbuniwe when it comes to the depth chart.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
Chicago’s inside linebackers are who they are and I’d tend to think the Bears are OK with the status quo. GM Ryan Pace nailed Smith as an impact draft pick and Trevathan as a free agent who brought stability to the position.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
For the sake of objectivity, the Bears could save an estimated $6.4 million in salary cap space by parting ways Trevathan. Moving on from a team leader and a fan favorite would be a bitter pill to swallow and – on the surface – counter-productive to winning a title. It would be met with resistance by teammates and fans, while also weakening a strength on the defense. What would even be the point of building up the middle if the Bears parted ways with one of the key cogs of the group? I don’t think moving on from Trevathan is in the works, but I can also see the financial flexibility that could be gained.
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
Even though Trevathan and Kwiatkoski are entering the final years of their respective contracts, inside linebacker is on the low end of the Bears’ list of needs. Perhaps the Bears could draft one who grows into a starter’s role after cutting their teeth on the special teams unit, but there isn’t much the Bears can do to make this strength even better.