LAKE FOREST – For the first time since 2018, barring a trade, the Bears will have a first round pick in the NFL Draft on Thurday evening.
Ryan Pace will be looking to have the same success he did when he last selected there three years ago when he brought in Roquan Smith with the eighth-overall pick. He’s been a starter ever since then and one of the more consistently productive players on the roster.
Now Pace is making sure that Smith remains in a Bears uniform for at least two more seasons.
Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Bears have picked up the fifth-year option for Smith ahead of this year’s draft this weekend.
The linebacker becomes the second of four first round picks under Pace whom the Bears have picked up the extra year, also doing so for linebacker Leonard Floyd. Due for a $13 million cap hit for the 2020 season, the Bears decided to release him before his fifth season.
Pace declined to pick up the fifth-year option for his 2015 first round pick Kevin White and 2017 No. 2 overall selection Mitchell Trubisky.
Drafted eighth overall in 2018, Smith has been a consistent force in the middle of the Bears’ defense, starting 42 of his 44 games in that time. In 2020 he enjoyed his best season with 139 tackles, 18 for loss with four sacks along with two interceptions, earning him an NFL All-Pro second-team selection.
An elbow injury suffered against Green Bay in Week 17 kept him out of the Wild Card playoff game against the Saints.