Will 2022 finally be the year Roquan Smith makes the Pro Bowl?

Roquan Smith

Linebacker Roquan Smith is arguably the most talented player on the Chicago Bears. In fact, Smith is one of the most talented linebackers in the NFL. His career accolades are proof of that. Smith was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team in 2018 and was an All-Pro in both 2020 and 2021. But there’s one honor missing from Smith’s resume: the Pro Bowl.

According to NFL.com, that could change in 2022. Smith was dubbed the Chicago Bears player most likely to be a first-time Pro Bowler this year.

“Smith has earned two second-team All-Pro selections, yet he hasn’t received a Pro Bowl nod to this point,” Nick Shook wrote. “Something is off with that. The Bears aren’t expected to be a serious contender this season, but if we have to pick a player with the best chance of reaching the Pro Bowl on Chicago’s roster, the obvious choice is Smith. I mean, the rest of the football world is going to get wise eventually, right?”

Smith is a logical choice. Aside from wide receiver Darnell Mooney, not many Bears project as strong Pro Bowl candidates in 2022. Sure, quarterback Justin Fields could develop faster than expected and dazzle his way to the all-star event, and cornerback Jaylon Johnson could finally snag a few interceptions and cement his status as one of the top defensive backs in the NFC. But the safest pick is Smith, who’s already played at a Pro Bowl level since 2018.

Roquan Smith had the most productive season of his career in 2021. He finished with a career-high 163 tackles and added 12 tackles for loss. He had three sacks, too. It became clear early in 2021 that Smith was the unquestioned leader of the Chicago Bears defense, and now that Khalil Mack is no longer on the roster, there’s no doubt Smith is the most gifted as well.

Smith is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could receive a lucrative extension during training camp. We don’t know how rookie general manager Ryan Poles will handle expiring contracts just yet, making Smith an interesting case study. But the Bears would be foolish to let him enter 2022 without a new deal; his asking price will only go up. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard reset the market with his five-year, $98.5 million deal last August. Smith’s next contract should come close to those terms.

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