Bears fans woke up to quite a shock on Tuesday when star linebacker Roquan Smith formally requested a trade. While the assumption was contract negotiations weren’t going well — given Smith planned on “holding in” at training camp — it was worse than we imagined.
In a detailed message shared by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Smith said he lost trust in the organization in their attempts to take advantage of him during contract negotiations. He also feels like it hasn’t been so much as a negotiation rather than them pressuring him with a “take it or leave it” deal.
General manager Ryan Poles addressed the situation following Tuesday’s Family Fest practice, where he expressed his intentions to sign Smith.
There was plenty to digest from Smith’s trade request. Our Bears Wire staff is sharing their reactions to Smith requesting a trade and what it could mean for the future.
Roquan Smith requests a trade from Bears
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
While we all knew things weren’t going well with Roquan Smith’s contract situation, I don’t think we expected it to reach the point where he formally requested a trade. That wasn’t something I was expecting to wake up to, especially considering GM Ryan Poles said it was a priority to get Smith re-signed. And the initial reaction was, “Wow, so things really escalated quickly.”
Obviously, it’s a negotiation tactic by Smith, who is navigating contract negotiations without an agent. He needed a way to voice his displeasure about how things stalled with an offer he’s not going to take, and he really put the spotlight on Poles.
Smith really drove the knife in deep with his comments about how he doesn’t feel valued, how he feels like he was being taken advantage of and even calling on George McCaskey to come to the rescue. I will give Poles credit for stepping in front of this and openly addressing the media when he could’ve kept quiet (we all kind of got used to that with former GM Ryan Pace). And it sounds like he wants to get a deal done. So that’s encouraging.
I’m firmly in the camp that Smith deserves to be paid like a top linebacker because he is one of them. He deserves in the range of a Shaquille Leonard or Fred Warner, but not more. Some people will disagree because his position isn’t as valued as others in the league. But when looking at what Matt Eberflus’ defense requires, the WILL linebacker is one of the most important positions in this defense. Eberflus needs someone like Smith. Why overpay for someone in free agency when you have Smith right there on your roster?
With that said, if Ian Rapoport is correct and Smith could fetch a first-round pick, it’s definitely an offer the Bears should not only consider but make. Not that I want to see Smith gone, but that offer is simply too good to refuse for an off-the-ball linebacker.
Do I think Smith will ultimately sign with the Bears? Yes. Can I say that I’m 100% confident in it? No.
AP Photo/Jason Behnken
Like general manager Ryan Poles, I was surprised and disappointed to hear of the trade request on Tuesday morning. Smith, while not practicing with the team, has been at Halas Hall every day of camp, working with the linebackers and taking part in meetings. That signaled to me that perhaps the two sides weren’t as far apart as we once thought. But Smith’s trade request was a bucket of cold water on that idea.
While the public trade request came as a surprise, I wasn’t as surprised when it came to the disparity in what Smith wants versus what the Bears are willing to pay him. When he was snubbed for a Pro Bowl nomination and missed out on making First-team All-Pro over the last two seasons, I knew that would cost him at the negotiating table. Smith is an elite off the ball linebacker, but that doesn’t mean he should be the highest paid at his position. He should, however, be making more than $17 million per year as that was the reported number the Bears offered, according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. That middle ground needs to be found.
The Bears need to be careful with how they approach these negotiations. This is Poles’ first major extension negotiations, and this could set the tone for future signings. Even though Smith doesn’t have an agent and is representing himself, other agents may look at what Poles is doing with structuring certain contracts and warn their players to look elsewhere.
I will say I was glad to see Poles at least address the situation on Tuesday following Family Fest. It was a welcome change and it told me both he and Smith want to get this deal done. Let’s see if the two sides can find common ground now that the dirty laundry has been aired out. There’s still time but Smith needs to put aside his personal feelings at the table if he’s going to continue representing himself.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
With Khalil Mack gone, this defense is Roquan Smith’s. Losing him would be a huge blow to the team.
Whether the contract negotiations weren’t going the way Smith wanted and he used this as a negotiation tactic — or he wants out of Chicago — this news isn’t as shocking to me as it was to others. The fact that he planned on being a no-show at training camp — before landing on the PUP list — was a red flag to me. A lot of key players have done this in the past over contract disputes.
If it’s true that Smith wants out of Chicago, or if he’s holding out for a bigger deal, Ryan Poles is in a tough spot. He has to set the tone on how he will handle negotiations for his stars in Chicago.
I would love to see Roquan in Matt Eberflus’ defense, so I hope the two sides can come to an agreement. If they can’t and Smith wants out, the Bears have to get solid draft capital in return, including a first round pick for it to be worth it.
AP Photo/Kyusung Gong
At this point, I don’t think the issue is just money. The relationship with the organization seems to have eroded.
The contract issues with Roquan and the organization go back to his rookie year and the use of de-escalators. With Ryan Pace as the GM, Smith had to negotiate language that provided the Bears the right to void his guarantees if suspended or ejected for targeting. It was a horrible way to start a relationship with a top-10 pick, and supposedly similar language wasn’t in the contract of Tremaine Edmunds, drafted eight picks later by Buffalo.
Now, he’s sitting down with a new regime and is allegedly faced with de-escalators again that he believes are unprecedented. Without knowing what the de-escalators are this time, it’s tough to comment. But Smith has only missed four games in his career. While he committed the most penalties in his career last year (4), he averaged 1-2 per season.
So it’s hard to know the concerns with a 25-year-old, healthy, low-penalized, two-time All-Pro linebacker. But if Roquan feels he’s not being negotiated with in good faith – there’s a relationship component that also needs to be improved.