Bears fans can rejoice, at least for a short while, as All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith returned to active duty for the Chicago Bears. Smith has been engaged in months-long contract and extension talks with the Bears higher-ups, yet has routinely come back dissatisfied. Tensions reached their height earlier this month when Smith formally requested a trade, a move that initially stoked great anger from Bears’ fans towards the organization, as many called for Smith’s requests to be met. While details of the proposed deals have remained scarce, last week Smith told reporters that he believes negotiation attempts from the Bears were “distasteful.” For now though, the problem has a temporary band-aid, as Smith has opted to go back on the field for the last year of his current contract. He is back in practice and expected to be seen playing this Saturday during the Bears v. Browns preseason game.
Across his first four years with the Bears, Smith has recorded five interceptions, 14 sacks and a whopping 524 tackles. In the 2021 season alone Smith recorded three sacks, one interception and 163 tackles. He is a dominant presence on the field, and everybody is happy to have him back. According to reports from attendees on site at Bears practice, Smith is already making his presence felt during his first return to the field.
While this is good news, it is only good news for the time being. What happens to Smith and the hearts of Bears fans after this year? Only time will tell. Smith is agentless, representing himself, and fans and analysts both are worried Smith might have burned too many bridges with the higher ups during his hold-in. Even though Smith is an exceptional player, he can only be paid so much. Rumors that he aimed to become the highest paid linebacker were met with uneasiness, as Shaquile Leonard, linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts and currently the highest paid at that position, has better overall stats than Smith by the numbers. For Smith to get his demands met, another exemplary season might be the bare minimum needed. Nonetheless, his mannerisms and professionalism have been commended by those close to the Bears, and everybody, including Head Coach Matt Eberflus, is excited to have him back.