Rumors: Bears linked to Pro-Bowl left tackle
Jason Getz - USA Today Sports

Rumors: Bears linked to Pro-Bowl left tackle

by - Senior Writer -

No one will argue that the Chicago Bears have held the keys to the NFL offseason since the end of the regular season. Not only have they had the most money to spend this offseason, but they held the No. 1 pick in the draft at one point. Chicago eventually traded away the No. 1 pick to Carolina in exchange for DJ Moore, Pick No. 9, and additional picks as they continue to make waves this offseason.

With the NFL draft less than a month away, you could argue that the Chicago Bears still hold the keys to the NFL draft despite picking No. 9. Should they hold onto that pick, they have the potential to add a significant piece to their franchise whether it be on offense or defense. Should they trade away that pick, not only are they helping someone else, but they could essentially add more picks, making them an even bigger threat this season and next.

However, another possibility could make them even more dangerous, including holding on to the No. 9 pick and making a free-agent move that could change the direction of their first-round plans. While most expect them to target an OL with their No. 9 pick, reports are coming from Chicago that they may be in the running for a two-time Pro Bowl OL in free agency.

Should this report be accurate and the Bears pursue this player, you can bet that drafting an OL No. 9 will be out of the question, and that alone changes the entire landscape of the NFL draft. For those wondering who this player may be, look no further than former Tampa Bay LT Donovan Smith, who is still a free agent.

When you look at the remaining free agent market, Smith is by far the best player available among OL and will require the highest salary among the players. Some expect him to land a contract north of 12 million annually, and the Bears are one of the few teams that could make that happen.

Smith is going into his age 30 season and is a long-time veteran in this league. He has multiple pro-bowl appearances, won a Superbowl a few years ago in Tampa, and has spent the past three seasons protecting the Future Hall Of Famer Tom Brady. With the Bears looking to transition Braxton Jones into a new role for the 2023 season, Chicago makes the most sense of anyone to bring Smith aboard.

Although not an all-pro tackle like Trent Williams or Orlando Brown, Smith has had an excellent career and would be a starter on the Chicago offensive line if brought in. Looking at the free agent landscape, seven OL have signed contracts worth at least 10 million per season. Smith would make it eight once his decision has been made as to where he will play next season.

Jones was a rookie for the Bears last season, and although he had his growing pains, he still played very well. There has been talk about moving him from LT to RT to keep him in the starting lineup, but you have also heard about Matt Eberflus moving him to a backup role. That would open up both the LT and RT positions, as Smith could come in and fill the LT spot.

That would allow Chicago to double down and draft a RT in the first round, making the offensive line deeper and miles better than at any point last season. Moving Jones to RT is a logical decision whether the Bears sign Smith or not. It opens the door to adding guys like Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson while also opening the door to adding a guy like Smith.

Since coming into the league, Smith has been about as durable as you can imagine and has played in 124 of a possible 130 games. He can provide solid protection for quarterback Justin Fields as a reliable starter at left tackle should Chicago decide to trade down again or go another way with its first-round pick later this month.

Most people expect him to land a contract in the three-year 33 million range with at least 21 million guaranteed. While that may seem steep, the Bears can afford to pay that and will be quick to make it happen should they see the fit.

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