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Roquan Smith; Extend Now or Later?......


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While addressing the Allen Robinson contract situation with a no action, there is one more pressing future financial consideration brewing in the distance for the Bears.

It could come sooner than the team would like, or at least before they have addressed such situations in the past. 

It's the Roquan Smith extension and for the Bears it might be more prudent to address it quickly, considering the past.

Smith held out as a rookie over mere contract language so it wouldn't be difficult to imagine something similar in the future if the situation were allowed time to fester.

A reason it could become possible now is because of a report from The Athletic's David Lombardi saying the San Francisco 49ers are looking at getting Fred Warner a contract extension, which could make him the highest paid linebacker. It would pass the yearly average of Bobby Wagner at about $18 million. This could set a guideline for the Bears.

Warner was a third-round pick in 2018, so the Niners need to get him an extension because he'll be a free agent after this year. 

Smith was the seventh pick of the draft in the same year but as a first-rounder he has a fifth-year option and the Bears have picked it up at $9.735 million. The extension would be something they could work on for the end of this season.

If they know what's good for them, they'll pursue this course. It's not like they need the cash for Robinson. They've made this much obvious.

 

From a team standpoint, paying a player who could be injured a season prior to when a new deal is needed doesn't make sense. From a player's standpoint, it's always better to have the cash early. 

In this case, though, Smith might really be able to rocket skyward if he has a strong fourth season in 2022. His demands could really increase then, and this is based on his rate of improvement over the past year. 

Smith is just starting to hit his stride.

Unlike Warner, Smith didn't excel immediately. Last year he quickly began closing the gap and maybe is even better now. If Smith keeps improving at the same rate as last year, there will be little doubt who the league's best inside linebacker is.

What is certain is there are few inside linebackers who are as good of an all-around threat as he is now.

 

Last year Smith's 18 tackles for loss were 13 more than Warner had. His 98 solo tackles were 19 more than Warner. His 139 total tackles were 14 more than Warner. The aspect of the game where Warner held an edge over Smith had been in pass defense, but last year the trend changed. 

Smith had the same number of interceptions (2) and, according to official NFL stat partner Sportradar, he had a better passer rating against when targeted than Warner at 59.6 to 69.7.

Even one of Smith's biggest skeptics, Pro Football Focus, had to give in a bit and gave Smith an 84.0 grade against the pass last year. That was fourth best among all linebackers, but still 7.1 behind league-leading Warner.

The numbers are trending up for Smith to receive a bigger deal than Warner based both on performance and the fact he's not due an extension until after the 2023 season. They might want to make it a longer one as well. He's only 24 years old at the end of this season, so it's safe to expect he'll get even better.

 

As the old saying goes, you can pay me now or pay me later. 

In this case, with the way salaries are going and the cap rising, it would be better for the Bears to pay Smith now despite their tradition of waiting.

Salaries are going to do nothing but increase. Smith could not only become the highest paid linebacker, if they wait too long they could be making him one of the league's highest paid defensive players when they already have Khalil Mack on the roster.

 

This article first appeared on Bear Digest and was syndicated with permission.

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I made a post about this a few months back. As far as I can tell, these are the reasons to extend him now:

  1. Get out in front of potential extensions for Fred Warner and Darius Leonard that set the market.
  2. Preserve the relationship with Smith and his agent.
  3. Creates a strong message about the organization's commitment to developing and paying draftees.
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