As the Chicago Bears press on through their first full week of training camp, first-round pick Roquan Smith continues his hold out. Smith is one of six players drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft that remain unsigned. There are expectations for the team’s rookie linebacker, but longer he continues his holdout, those expectations could sour.
Smith is the first hold out the Bears have had since running back Cedric Benson nearly missed all of camp due to a holdout in 2005. Benson had been compared to Ricky Williams at the time and was seen as the Bears future star at the position. His rookie season was a wasted as he backed up Thomas Jones at the running back position, before missing over six games to due injury.
The list of Bears first-round picks that held out is not a list that Smith wants to be on. The list includes quarterback Cade McNown, running back Curtis Enis, and wide receiver David Terrell. There were high expectations for all of these players, but all of them ended up as some of the biggest busts in Bears history.
McNown’s passing ability and mobility flashed at times, but his immaturity and inconsistency forced the Bears to move on from him after just his second year. Enis did provide promise in his rookie season before suffering torn ACL in the ninth game ending his season. Made worse, he suffered another gruesome knee injury the following season which all but ended his career. Terrell was billed as a big play receiver, but had way too many drops and only recorded two 100 yard receiving games in a four-year career.
The longer the holdout continues, the more Smith could suffer from both an on and off the field perspective. He is expected to start at inside linebacker and is expected to be a big help in the run defense. He is missing valuable reps, especially this year given the extra time extended to the Bears for the Hall of Fame Game. Missed assignments and blown coverages will only magnify the time he misses in training camp.
Off the field, Smith risks losing favorability with fans. If he makes a mistake during a game, fans are more likely to criticize him due to his holdout. McNown, Terrell, and Enis were disliked by fans for their failure to produce, but all three got off to bad footing with the fans due to their holdouts. For any holdout, there is a negative stigma attached to them, especially if they struggle early on.
General manager Ryan Pace and the Bears have received a lot of praise this past offseason for retooling their roster and coaching staff. One key piece was the drafting of Smith who was seen as the most NFL ready defensive player. The longer the holdout continues, the more and more the selection will be questioned, especially if Smith doesn’t produce immediately.