Editor’s note: Bears linebacker Roquan Smith returned to practice on Saturday after “holding in” and seeking a longterm contract extension. Smith said he was going to “bet on myself as I’ve always done.” Should Chicago do all it can to get a new deal done before the linebacker hits unrestricted free agency in 2023? Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt shared his thoughts:
I think they should (give him a new deal). I would take it to the max.
Ryan Poles, the Bears GM, said, “We know the number that we can go to and that’s all we’re gonna do to sign him back.” And I get that part. If his number’s crazy, then you gotta move on. The Bears have enough needs that they could get good players or draft picks for him (in a trade).
But you have to keep this in mind: This is a kind of (Bears) defense that we ran at the Cowboys and Dolphins. It’s a Tony Dungy defense. It’s Lovie Smith. In other words, four down lineman, and your middle linebacker is a key guy.
Think of the Tampa Bay Bucs back in their Super Bowl year (2002). Derrick Brooks was the main guy. The Bears, when they were one of the best defenses in the league and went to the Super Bowl (2006), it was Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. The whole time I was at the Dolphins, it was Zach Thomas. And these guys were every-down linebackers.
And Roquan Smith has more than 100 tackles every year he’s been in the league. He’s had interceptions, he’s had sacks. He can do it all and he never comes off the field. So in this scheme of defense where you’re not blitzing a lot, your linemen are fast and they’re coming up the field, that middle linebacker, in my opinion, is a lot more valuable in this type of scheme than what he would be if they were a big pressure team, where everybody’s just blitzing and you’re bringing in 5, 6, 7 guys.
So, I would take it as far as you can take it to get him back. He’s been a great guy. He’s been attending charity things in downtown Chicago. … The whole thing is kind of strange. Maybe the Bears playing great defense against Seattle (on Friday) will be a little bit of an eye-opener and he’ll say, “You know what, maybe they don’t need me, let’s get this done.’
He’s a top five middle linebacker in the NFL, in my opinion.