You knew it was going to get done. They always do. And Roquan Smith was going to be in a Bears uniform later rather than sooner because of contract issues. And now he reportedly is.
Smith now resumes the process of NFL orientation and acclimation that began with his rookie minicamp and continued through OTA’s and other workouts. Those are a long way from game speed, but the Georgia rookie linebacker is considered a long way from typical, so best guess is that he will arrive in Denver with his teammates at least in pretty good conditioning shape and actually a little healthier than quite of few of them, owing to having the good fortune of not playing two preseason games.
Whether Smith plays Saturday in Denver against the Broncos is the question of the week. Given that he will have the better part of the week practicing against NFL competition, which, when you throw in off days and walk-throughs, is not a whole lot less than his teammates had prepping for the Hall of Fame game Aug. 2.
If Smith does not see the field in Denver, that would push back his first game action until Aug. 25 in Chicago against the Kansas City Chiefs, which is game three and the one starters play the most extensively in the preseason. Smith likely sits out the fourth game, against Buffalo, increasing the value of snaps in Denver next Saturday.
NBC Sports Chicago recently looked at prominent cases of Bears holdouts (Cedric Benson, Curtis Enis, McNown) and notable non-holdouts (Lance Briggs, Olin Kreutz, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher), with the clear conclusion that there is no demonstrable relationship longer-term between the success/lack of same of players who got contracts done on time and those who went through negotiating delays. Holdout players occasionally have injury issues but those, as in the cases of Benson, Enis and McNown, had less to do with the holdouts than ability shortcomings, or injuries unrelated to their holdouts.
The difficulty with fully understanding the current situation is that neither side has gone public with much in the way of detail, except the Bears dropping hints that they were giving in on a point that more than one player agent told NBC Sports Chicago never should have been there in the first place – the prospect of un-guaranteeing monies based on unspecified possible on-field situations. That allowed the Bears to claim a bit of the perceived PR high ground, with some immediate public reaction that now it was Smith’s turn to give in.
Regardless, no one really cares about all of that now. Notably, his teammates don’t particularly care. They know it’s a business, and Smith evinced none of the first-round repulsiveness that bugged teammates in the cases of Benson, Enis and McNown, who were all roundly disliked virtually from before the holdouts were resolved.
Smith has engendered none of that and now becomes a critical component of a defense in dire need of impact players. He has been projected as an obvious drop-in ahead of Nick Kwiatkoski and alongside Danny Trevathan, which suddenly gives the Bears more firepower at inside linebacker than they have had during the Vic Fangio regime, which has had to hope for health from Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and even Kwiatkoski, none of whom have put together 16-game Bears seasons for various reasons.
The Bears have seen arrows pointing sharply upward for members of their 2018 draft class. James Daniels (No. 2A) is already challenging for a starting spot on the offensive line. Anthony Miller (No. 2B) has been hampered by injuries in the past few days but was arguably the standout wide receiver in camp. Bilal Nichols (No. 5) has worked into the defensive-line rotation. Kylie Fitts (No. 6) has shown flashes as an edge rusher. Javon Wims (No. 7) flashed against Baltimore.
Now comes what the Bears hope to be the flagship of the draft class.