This is exactly what I needed to hear from Roquan Smith yesterday:
Last time we saw Smith, he was walking off to the locker room after suffering what turned out to be a season-ending torn pectoral muscle against the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. The injury ended an uneven season for Smith, who started slow, missed time due to personal reasons, came along strong in the middle part of the year, and appeared to be on the path to a strong finish. Think about it. If you were to extrapolate the stats Smith accumulated in 11 healthy games over a full 16-game season, they’d look like this: 143 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 3 QB hits, 3 sacks, and 1 interception. That’s not bad. But Smith thinks better is coming.
We have previously discussed the importance of this year for Smith. Fast forward to his Zoom press conference, and we have Smith talking about having a chip on his shoulder entering his third year as a pro. Smith feels great (he said he was 100 percent healthy, for what that’s worth) as he steps into a season where he knows he has much to live up to as a top-10 pick. And so long as Smith stays healthy, the possibility of him reaching his potential in an important season remains high.
And if that happens to be the case, then the timing will turn out to be great for the Georgia product.
After the 2020 season, the Bears have to make a decision on Smith’s fifth-year option. Perhaps that’s not in focus for anyone at this particular moment, but it’s something to keep in mind. Bears GM Ryan Pace has yet to have a first-round pick who played on his fifth-year option with the team. And in previous years, a quality campaign from Smith in 2020 would make picking up the option an easy decision. But because the fifth-year option will be fully guaranteed upon execution, the decision from the team side becomes a hair more difficult if a player hasn’t played to his draft position three years into his time in the league.
Another uneven season will complicate matters for the Bears. But perhaps a solid season from Smith could kick-start conversations on an extension over the offseason, pushing chatter regarding a fifth-year option further to the back of our brains. Of course, no one can get to that point until Smith’s season plays out. Hence, the buzz surrounding him right now.
For more from Roquan Smith, you can check out his entire Zoom press conference in the embedded video below: