Two weeks ago, things were quite a bit different for the Chicago Bears. Star Linebacker Roquan Smith had requested a trade as contract talks were stalling. Offensive Lineman Teven Jenkins was reportedly on the trade block and wasn’t even practicing with the team. Both Smith’s and Jenkins’ futures with the team looked bleak.
Now, fast forward to today. Roquan Smith ended his hold in and has begun practicing. Smith wasn’t able to agree to a new contract with the team and he said negotiations will not continue with the season. Roquan had every opportunity to say that 2022 would be his final season in a Bears uniform, and he never took that chance, even when asked directly by reporters.
Teven Jenkins is also back practicing. He started practicing on August 6th. He has ramped up and is now on track to be a starter on the offensive line. However, he’s playing a new position. Jenkins is now at Right Guard. In college, he was a Right Tackle. He played Left Tackle in his limited snaps as a rookie in the NFL in 2021. He started the offseason program at Right Tackle, and is now at Right Guard after missing the beginning of training camp.
I don’t know what the future holds for both of these players in a Bears uniform. Roquan could elect to leave in free agency to get the most money he can, because it’s clear that he wants to be the highest paid Inside Linebacker in the NFL. General Manager Ryan Poles isn’t definitively saying “no” to Roquan. If he was saying that, he would’ve traded him when Smith requested to be traded. Instead, Ryan Poles is saying “Prove it”. We’ve never seen Roquan Smith in this role as the weakside linebacker, as he was always a traditional Mike linebacker in the old defensive scheme. That’s why it makes sense not to give him a crazy amount of money right now.
As for Teven Jenkins, it’s simply good to see him on the football field. He’s had a nightmarish start to his career. Having his position switched, having back surgery, missing most of his rookie year, not playing in meaningless games while the old coaching staff played a 40 year old Jason Peters, and then this year with the trade rumors and an undisclosed injury. It shows tremendous mental strength from Teven Jenkins to keep pushing after the way his career started.
A couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know if Jenkins would put on a Bears jersey ever again. Now, he’s the likely starting right guard heading into week one. How good he’ll be at Guard remains to be seen.
These two players being back on the field in 2022 is big for the Bears. Not only could they be extremely impactful for the team this year, but both are extremely vital parts of the Bears future. Roquan is the leader of the defense and the best player on the whole football team. As for Teven Jenkins, any young offensive lineman that you can develop is a positive for the team you’re trying to build.
If I were to offer up my prediction for how these two perform in 2022 is that Smith has the best year of his career, makes an all pro, then ultimately signs a huge deal after the season to remain in Chicago. As for Jenkins, my prediction for him is that he’s an average or slightly below average starter, but the Bears see enough to keep him around and give him a chance to earn a starting job in 2023.