The end of April and beginning of May in the NFL is known for more than the draft.
It's when fifth-year contract option decisions are due on first-round draft picks, and for the Bears this means by May 3 they need to decide whether to pick up linebacker Roquan Smith's option.
The last Bears first-round draft pick selected should be a no-brainer decision for general manager Ryan Pace.
The fifth-year option amount is determined, in part, by playing level achieved and Smith's option year would be for $9.735 million. This is the third level on a possible list which includes players making two or more Pro Bowls, those selected to one Pro Bowl, those who achieve play-time criterio and those who don't achieve this. Smith is in the third cateogory with no Pro Bowls but more than 75% of Bears defensive snaps played.
The fact Smith failed to make the Pro Bowl last year spoke to the popularity contest which voting has become. Players frequently make the Pro Bowl team the year after they break through. Smith made the All-Pro second team for the Associated Press, but this isn't taken into account even though it's more difficult to achieve All-Pro status.
Last season Smith was the 17th-ranked linebacker by Pro Football Focus but was No. 4 in pass coverage grade behind only Fred Warner, Erick Kendricks and Mykal Walker.
Smith last season established career highs with 139 tackles and 18 tackles for loss. He made four sacks and also had career highs of seven pass defenses and two interceptions.
The Bears last year declined Mitchell Trubisky's fifth-year option and let him leave after the fourth year of the contract. Picking up Smith's option ensures they will have him in 2022 before he would hit unrestricted free agency in 2023.
This season Smith counts $6.049 million against the Bears salary cap, including $2.879 million for a signing bonus and $2.249 million roster bonus.
If Smith made it to his fifth-year option, it would end a Bears streak. They have declined the option on three of the last four first-round draft picks before Smith and on Leonard Floyd when they did pick up the option they cut him before he made it to the fifth season.
They declined Kyle Fuller's option and then had to pay him when they tagged him as a transition free agent and Green Bay signed him to a tender offer after four seasons. Then they declined the options on Kevin White and Trubisky.
The last one they picked up was Kyle Long from the 2013 draft in 2016.
Smith has missed four games in three seasons, all of them in 2019. He had an incident with a "personal issue" and missed a 2019 game, then missed the last three games on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle suffered in a win over Dallas.
In 2020, he played the full season but suffered an elbow injury in the regular-season final with Green Bay and had to miss the playoff loss to New Orleans.