How Long Will it Take for Roquan Smith to Crack Starting Lineup?

Attention all Chicago Bears fans! The wait is finally over! According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, rookie linebacker Roquan Smith has ended his 29-day stalemate with the Bears. The 2018 eighth-overall draft pick has agreed to a four-year contract that is worth a guaranteed $18 million, and includes approximately $11 million in bonuses, according to Schefter.

Smith is the last rookie of the 2018 rookie class to sign with his respective team. This holdout was due to Smith and his agent trying to get the language of his contract in order so that he wouldn’t lose any guaranteed money in the event of getting suspended over the newly appointed helmet-contact rules passed down by the NFL.

This hiatus from the practice field will definitely have an effect on Smith’s playing time in the early part of the regular season. The Georgia product has already missed Chicago’s first two preseason games and the Bears’ entire training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, which officially ended yesterday. Now, just how long will it take Smith to make up for lost time with the start of the regular season less than a month away?

Right after being drafted by the Bears this offseason, the 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year was slated to be a Week 1 starter on Chicago’s defense at middle linebacker alongside Danny Trevathan in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. Obviously, that won’t happen now. According to the Bears’ current depth chart, Smith is behind Nick Kwiatkoski, and he could be behind him for a little while.

However, with no practice reps all summer, it’s still possible that the Butkus Award winner could see some playing time in Chicago’s next preseason game on Saturday when the Bears face the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City.

This will leave Smith with practices at Halas Hall, and the final two exhibition games for the Bears to get his feet wet. Chicago will play the Kansas City Chiefs on August 25 (Saturday), and will close out the preseason facing the Buffalo Bills on August 30 (Thursday)—both games will be played at home.

Assuming that Smith gets up to speed quickly in the back half of the preseason, and he meets expectations, there could be a good chance that he could be a permanent fixture in the starting lineup by Week 6. The Bears should use the first four games of the regular season to get Smith into the linebacker rotation to get acclimated with the defensive scheme and the speed of the NFL. Once the Bears come off of their early Week 5 bye, we could be seeing the start of another great player continuing the tradition of middle linebacker in the Windy City.