2022 Offseason Outlook: Roquan Smith and the Linebackers

Social Navigation


2022 Offseason Outlook: Roquan Smith and the Linebackers

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ 2021 season is one we don’t mind leaving in the rear-view mirror. 

With that being said, we’re looking ahead to 2022 and beyond. The Ryan Poles Era is underway. And with a new-look front office and a fresh set of eyes at head coach, a clean slate is at everyone’s fingertips. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into the offseason for a franchise that should be excited about changes on the horizon under its new leadership.

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive line, Defensive line, Pass-rushers

Today: Linebackers

WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?

(Age in parenthesis)

Roquan Smith (24) through 2022, Danny Trevathan (31) through 2022, Caleb Johnson (23) through 2023, Noah Dawkins (24) through 2023

Ahem! At this time last year, we were discussing the plausibility of a Roquan Smith extension. One year later, we’ve got … nothing. We even chopped it up with what an extension could look like for both sides. And that number has taken a hike since the Fred Warner and Darius Leonard deals. But we’re only days removed from having seen the Bears cut ties with high-priced defensive talent via trade (bye, Khalil!) and cut (so long, Eddie)

EXITING FREE AGENTS

Christian Jones (31), Alec Ogletree (30), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (26)

One area the previous regime didn’t struggle was finding depth at linebacker. It seems as if they were pulling out serviceable linebackers who were doubling as special teams contributors every year. It would be nice if this group could do something similar.

WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?

If done with a post-June 1 designation, cutting Danny Trevathan would create $3,288,235 in cap space. To be clear, the Bears would be unable to use it until after June 1. But getting out from Trevathan’s contract and clearing up a roster spot for perhaps a younger, healthier player might make sense for the new regime.

Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT FITS

⇒   Anthony Hitchens (29)
⇒   Kyzir White (25)
⇒   Anthony Walker (26)

PFF’s TOP-5 DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS

⇒   Devin Lloyd, Utah
⇒   Nakobe Dean, Georgia
⇒   Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma
⇒   Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
⇒   Christian Harris, Alabama

HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?

Recent trends being what they are, I don’t expect the Bears to spend a ton of money in free agency to round out the linebackers room. You don’t cut ties with Khalil Mack and Eddie Goldman to turn around and splurge on an inside linebacker. And because of their needs are other positions, it is tough to imagine the team using its top picks on the position. But this seems to be a sweet-spot — both in free agency and the draft — to find under-the-radar players who could provide sneaky value at the position. And because the scheme flip to four down linemen means the Bears need to re-shape the linebackers room.

Someone like Anthony Hitchens could be a fit, as he has a history with new Bears GM Ryan Poles (2018-21) from their time in Kansas City and Head Coach Matt Eberflus (2014-17) when they were crossing paths in Dallas. And then there is Anthony Walker, who spent three years (2018-20) as the middle linebacker in Eberflus’ Colts defense. In either case, both could slide Roquan Smith over to an outside linebacker spot that could further lift his profile. So … it’s not as if this position doesn’t matter. In fact, what the Bears do at the position could provide a glance at the position group’s future.



Author: Luis Medina

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