"He was awesome in the offseason," Pagano said. "Zoom stuff, engaged, locked in like the rest of his teammates. He's in phenomenal shape. He's locked in. Going through the meetings to this point, the installs, had a couple walk-throughs with those guys, he's on top of that. He hasn't skipped a beat. I just think we've seen Pro Bowl-caliber play, now it's just gotta be consistent. Coming into Year Three, he's going to have a phenomenal year."
A huge season for Smith could lead to a new contract in the next offseason a year after the Bears paid Trevathan to keep him from leaving in free agency. The Bears doubled down on their initial investment in the former Super Bowl champion with the Broncos, signing him to $21.75 million, three-year contract with $13.625 million guaranteed, a rich pay day for a 30-year-old who has missed 18 games over the last four seasons.
It's Trevathan's belief he's just settling into the defense entering his second season under Pagano and inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone.
"I was just getting started," said Trevathan, whose season was truncated by a dislocated left elbow in Week 9, leading to his second trip to injured reserve in four years.
"You haven't seen that ... I'm being serious. I was just touching the tip of the 'berg. I was starting to feel for the defense, get a feel for the inside backer for the defense. Now, I understand football so well. I know how to play the game mentally and beat people mentally as well as physically. So, I feel like I was definitely going to turn it up a couple notches last year.
"How do I get back to that? I never lost it, in my mind and how I feel. But I feel like it's not gonna be no problem to get back to that dog. I just can't wait to go out there and finish where I left off."
The Bears must feel similarly as they essentially chose Trevathan over the drafted and developed Nick Kwiatkowski, who is three years younger and signed a nearly identical three-year contract with the Raiders. The loss of Kwiatkowski and Kevin Pierre-Louis in free agency eroded some of the Bears' depth, but the frontline talent of Smith and Trevathan is unmistakable, particularly if Smith can become the kind of elite player the Bears envision as the last in a line of four consecutive top-10 picks by general manager Ryan Pace.
"I just have a chip on my shoulder, so it's just more so myself knowing what I need to do to make myself the best possible player I need to be," Smith said.
Earlier this offseason, Trevathan expressed concern about playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his fiancee has asthma-like conditions and also had the health of his children to factor in.
"I definitely took some hard thought about the whole situation," he said. "I had to see it first-hand, so I came in and I feel like they did a pretty good job handling the situation. You know, this thing is so wild. It definitely made me nervous a little bit. But I feel like I made the right decision.