Despite Being One of the Oldest Teams in the NFL, the Bears Quietly Have Some Young Studs

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Despite Being One of the Oldest Teams in the NFL, the Bears Quietly Have Some Young Studs

Chicago Bears

Sometimes, I need a cold splash of water in my face to snap me back to reality. Because, while I dream of a young Justin Fields lighting the way to brighter days, I’m reminded that this Bears team is old and expensive. And in the short-term, it sets the table for trouble.

However, it isn’t a total state of gloom and doom.

Despite these Bears being on the older and costly side of things, there is still some young and interesting talent sprinkled throughout the roster. Now, that is the breath of fresh air I needed today.

For instance, NFL.com writer Nick Shook put Roquan Smith on his All-Under-25 team. Smith, who won’t turn 25 until April 2022, is coming off an all-world season. He had more solo tackles than Bobby Wagner … more total tackles, sacks, QB Hits, and tackles than Darius Leonard … and more tackles, solo tackles, tackles-for-loss, and sacks than Fred Warner in 2020. So, don’t let the minor detail that Smith didn’t get Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro honors get in the way of the fact that he had a tremendous season. And thus, earned a spot on a team brimming with young talent. Let’s be real. Any time you land on a list with Lamar Jackson, DK Metcalf, Chase Young, and the aforementioned Warner, you’re doing something right.

And to think, Smith isn’t the only young Bears defender receiving high praise these days:

Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols finds himself on the NFL Research team’s Best Team Money Can Buy squadron. Again, there’s a ton of talent on this team. So making the cut here speaks volumes for what Nichols brings to the table as a player. And that’s before we get to the value on his contract, as Nichols is in the final year of his rookie deal.

Nichols, 24, set career highs last year in games played (16), sacks (5), QB Hits (13), total tackles (40), and tackles-for-loss (7). For good measure, Nichols added three passes defended and his first career interception. It was a breakout year for Nichols, who was in on a career best 58 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Drafting Nichols in Round 5 of the 2018 NFL Draft has been a boon for the Bears, who have shown a knack for drafting and developing under-the-radar defensive talent. Nichols is just the latest example.

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

I’d be glowing about this more if I knew what the future held for these two standout Bears. Nichols is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Should he continue to play at his current level in 2021, he’ll be in line for a hefty pay raise in the offseason ahead. As for Smith, he is under team control this year and next. And at a relative bargain considering his output. The Bears would do well to sign either (both?) to an extension. Especially in the case of Smith, whose contract number could go to the moon if someone like Warner or Leonard gets paid and sets a high market.

Looking ahead, I hope to be writing a post like this at this time next year. Smith could still very well make the list, since he’ll meet Shook’s age requirements for the exercise. HOWEVER, next year’s list could tilt toward the offense. Running back David Montgomery and receiver Darnell Mooney will play 2022 in their age 25 seasons. If offensive lineman James Daniels re-signs with the team, he will play in his age 25 season in 2022. Tight end Cole Kmet will be just 23. And let’s not forget about quarterback Justin Fields, who will play 2022 at age 23. Oh, and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins will be 24.

All in all, it has the makings of a brighter future than I would’ve anticipated when thinking through things earlier in the offseason. Don’t get it twisted, though. The Bears still have plenty of work to do from a developmental standpoint. Moreover, the front office needs to continue supplementing this roster with an infusion of young talent. Nevertheless, Chicago’s football team is in a better spot now than it was when I first began thinking about how old and expensive this group was in April


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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.