Following the trade of edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers, Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is now the unquestioned headliner on defense. Entering his fifth season in the league, the former 2018 first-round pick is playing on the Bears’ fifth-year option and is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next year.
Don’t count on that happening, however. Smith, who turned just 25 years old in April, is one of the NFL’s most talented (young) inside linebackers. He set a career-high in tackles (163) last season and stuffed the stat sheet with an interception, three sacks, and a defensive touchdown. It was the second-straight season that he started every game.
Smith’s market value is as high as ever, and the price point for linebackers continues to climb. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard is the standard, with a contract that pays him $19.7 million annually. New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosely is next, earning $17 million per year. Smith should reset that market once his new deal is done, although when that will happen remains a mystery.