These Bears should be next in line for a contract extension

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While we’re still a couple of months away from the start of the Bears’ 2021 season, it’s not too early to think ahead to where their roster will stand next year. And GM Ryan Pace has some important decisions to make involving players whose contracts are up after this season.

The biggest storyline involves wide receiver Allen Robinson, who has certainly earned another contract with the Bears. Barring a contract extension ahead of July 15, Robinson will be playing out the 2021 season on the franchise tag. But many fans are hoping that somehow, Chicago can get a deal done.

There are three other Bears who are playing for their second NFL contract, all of whom have certainly earned to not only be in the conversation for an extension but have earned it.

Let’s take a look at those four Bears who should be next in line for a contract extension.

WR Allen Robinson

James Gilbert/Getty Images

There's no doubt that Allen Robinson deserves a contract extension with the Bears, but there's certainly doubt that he'll get one before becoming an unrestricted free agent next year. Robinson has been a pillar of consistency on offense since joining Chicago in 2018, where he's been able to be one of the more productive receivers in the league -- and that with inconsistent quarterback play, as he's endured throughout his career. Robinson is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard receivers, and he's the kind of weapon you want to give your young franchise quarterback as he starts his career. Chicago placed the franchise tag on Robinson, and the two sides have until July 15 to lock down an extension before he plays under the tag. But given that Robinson and the Bears haven't had serious contract talks since last September, there's not a lot of hope that one will get done within the next couple of weeks.

LB Roquan Smith

AP Photo/Kyusung Gong

Roquan Smith is Ryan Pace's only first-round draft pick to date who has not only panned out but is on track for a second contract with the Bears. Smith had a breakout season in 2020, where he was one of the NFL's best linebackers. Last season, Smith totaled a career-high 139 tackles, including 98 solo tackles, 18 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, four sacks, seven pass defenses, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Smith also got a career-best grade from Pro Football Focus. The Bears exercised Smith's fifth-year option earlier this offseason, which was one of the easiest decisions this offseason. And assuming Smith continues his upward trajectory, there's no doubt he's going to earn a contract extension with Chicago, where he'll anchor this defense for years to come.

DT Bilal Nichols

AP Photo/David Berding

Bilal Nichols is one of several success stories that Pace has found in the later rounds of the NFL draft. The former fifth-round pick has established himself as an integral part of the defensive line following an impressive second half in 2020, where he showed that he can be the kind of dominant force that has made Chicago's defensive front formidable -- whether that's at defensive end or nose tackle. The Bears have lost some important members of their defensive line over the last couple of years, including Nick Williams and most recently Roy Robertson-Harris. With Akiem Hicks not likely to return following the final year of his contract, Chicago needs to lock down Nichols to ensure the defensive line remains some consistency.

OL James Daniels

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While there are questions at the tackle position on Chicago's offensive line, the interior remains consistent, which starts with former second-round pick James Daniels. Daniels has played both center and guard for the Bears, but he settled into the guard role last season. Daniels had bulked up and appeared primed for a potential breakout year for Chicago. Unfortunately, Daniels suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 5, which cut his season short. Which was disappointing considering Daniels looked to be playing some of the best football of his young career. We'll see exactly what he can do coming back from injury this season. With the emergence of Sam Mustipher at center, Daniels and Cody Whitehair could be the future at guard for the Bears.

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