The Bears have their guideline for a Roquan Smith contract extension.
Remember, this is only a guideline. It can go much higher.
According to multiple reports, 49ers All-Pro inside linebacker Fred Warner agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $95 million, with $40.5 million guaranteed.
The deal makes Warner the highest-paid inside linebacker after he made first-team All-Pro for the first time.
Warner is a third-round pick who was drafted the same season as Smith, but as a third-rounder there was no option year involved with his contract so he needed an immediate contract extension.
Smith had a better season statistically than Warner last year and the next step for him is to be recognized by the rest of the league for his play, while also being recognized by the Bears in terms of his own contract extension.
Smith last year had 18 tackles for loss, more than Warner (15) has had for all three years of his career combined. Smith had four sacks last year, matching Warner’s career total. Smith has 11 total sacks.
Last season Smith made 139 tackles to 125 by Warner and had 98 solo tackles to 79 by Warner. The 98 solo tackles led all inside linebackers.
Warner was judged by Pro Football Focus as the best pass coverage linebacker in the league last year, but Smith was rated fourth-best linebacker for pass coverage and had a better passer rating against when targeted (59.6) than Warner (69.7).
With those statistical edges in his favor, the fact his contract is coming later due to the fifth-year option, and the fact that there will be more money available on future salary caps with the pandemic off the books, it would be very easy to see the Bears pay out the largest inside linebacker contract in the league to Smith.
Maybe an average of $20 million to $21 million for more years might not be out of the question. This year Smith will make $920,000 and with bonus money has a cap cost to the Bears of $6.049 million. On the fifth-year option, he’ll receive a 2022 base salary of $9.735 million.
The other factor the Bears need to take into account with Smith is his age. He was a younger player when he started, and he’s only 24 right now.
This all makes the team’s reluctance to pay Allen Robinson II a big contract a little easier to understand, although these are financial concerns they should have planned to address long ago.
Smith’s value has to go up because of his leadership, as well. During OTAs when most veteran defensive starters were away on their own, Smith was at practice leading the way.
“The way that he has grown into the player and person, to me it’s just, it’s super special,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said at the time. “They don’t make many players like Roquan Smith, I’ll just tell you that right now. They just don’t.
“And we are so lucky to have him as one of the main leaders of this defense. And for him to come in here and just, every day, do his thing and just run around, fly around, help teach these younger guys that’s really neat. And so we appreciate that. He knows that.”
We’ll see how much the organization actually appreciates it soon enough.