The NFL Draft is a necessary evil if you’re a veteran player, especially if your team just drafted two players at the position you play and your contract doesn’t provide much job security beyond the upcoming season.
That’s the spot Danny Trevathan is in now. The Bears nabbed Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick in April's NFL Draft, then used their fourth-round selection on Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Both players are inside linebackers; the Bears could net $6.4 million in cap savings if they release Trevathan following the 2018 season.
Trevathan, though, isn’t approaching 2018 like the writing is on the wall for it to be his final year in Chicago.
“It depends on how you look at it,” Trevathan said. “For me, it is what it is, (Smith’s) a good player and he’s going to help us out on defense. You just want to go ahead and do your job and keep working. He’s a good player, just like we’ve all got some good players out here. But he’s … we got the right guy to fit our defense. He’s working his tail off and he fits in with our linebacker group.”
That Trevathan answered a question about the decision to draft Smith, specifically, in that manner isn’t surprising. The 28-year-old is one of the most respected leaders in the Bears locker room, the kind of guy who sets the tone for the rest of the defense (in other words: Exactly what you want out of a veteran inside linebacker). Trevathan offered plenty of praise for Smith not only as a player, but for how he’s approached his first few practices wearing a Bears helmet.
“He's quick, instinctive, learns well,” Trevathan said. “He's just out here trying to get better. That's what I like about him. He's calling the call sheets out. He's learning the plays. That's what you want in him. You want him to come out here and be humble. You want him to work hard. I see that in his eyes, coming out here. It's a lot of lights on him. It's a lot of attention on him. But he's finding himself out here, coming out here and trying to make some plays.”
The reality, though, is that Smith may not be the one to take Trevathan’s job, if it comes to that. The best-case outlook for Iyiegbuniwe would appear to be that the Bears found a fourth-round steal who can pair with Smith as Vic Fangio’s long-term inside linebacking tandem. If “Iggy” proves to be that guy, then Trevathan could indeed find his place in Chicago in jeopardy.
And, too, even if Iyiegbuniwe doesn’t quickly develop into a starting-caliber player, the Bears could still decide to cut ties with Trevathan if Smith proves to be elite.
The best way for Trevathan to make sure he’s still here in a year, though, is to play a full 16-game season — something he hasn’t done since 2013, and he's missed 11 games since signing a four-year deal in 2016.
But when Trevathan is on the field, his speed and physicality are a critical component to the Bears’ success. That won't change in 2018, at the least.
"(He has) that veteran experience," coach Matt Nagy said. "We went against Danny when I was in Kansas City and he was at Denver so we always knew what kind of player he was. He has the demeanor to him, a focus, he's very serious when he's out there on the field and he'll have a great mentorship, he'll be a great mentor for Roquan."