It was only a matter of time before the Roquan Smith contract situation became an issue. The linebacker played four terrific seasons for the Chicago Bears. He’s done everything required to earn a massive extension from the organization. That isn’t up for debate. The problem is there are complicating factors that have led to a standoff. For one, Smith doesn’t have an agent. He is representing himself. History shows that can often lead to talks stalling.
Then there is the matter of money. Recent reports suggest Smith is hoping to claim the crown of highest-paid linebacker in the NFL. That isn’t anything unexpected. Most players hope to achieve that. The problem is that his asking price is significantly higher now than the Bears are comfortable with. Not only does he want to top Shaq Leonard’s $19.7 million per year, but he wants to shatter it. There is a strong possibility GM Ryan Poles isn’t willing to go that far.
There is also another factor that isn’t talked about.
Albert Breer of The MMQB has kept apprised of the Bears’ situation over the past weeks. He’s heard the two sides have a long way to go before reaching common ground on a new deal. He also raised an interesting point on Unfiltered with David Kaplan. One thing to remember is that head coach Matt Eberflus has a traditional “type” for linebackers. Smith, for all his previous success, doesn’t fit that mold.
Length is the primary talking point here. Okereke and Leonard both have arms above 34 inches. Smith measured at 32 inches. Combine that with his modest 6’1 size, and it is easy to understand why Eberflus elected to move the All-Pro to the weakside spot. Size isn’t as pressing of an issue there in this 4-3 defense. Is that a dealbreaker, though? That seems unlikely. Eberflus has a long history of working to the strengths of his roster.
Roquan Smith is much more likely to get his money.
The Bears know he is a star and should be able to fit their new defense quite well. His teammates love him and view him as their unquestioned leader. Poles and Eberflus may not have personally acquired him, but they’ve shown they aren’t in the business of selling off young, talented players. This feels more like a matter of haggling until a dollar amount is reached that both sides are comfortable with.
It hasn’t reached that point yet. Roquan Smith is no stranger to holdouts. He did it as a rookie in 2018, not returning until mid-August. Considering how much higher the stakes are now, it wouldn’t be a shock if he pushed this towards the regular season. It is on Poles to figure out a solution. That is why he gets paid the big bucks.
He doesn’t seem troubled by the standoff.
Every GM faces something like this at one point or another. He already handled the Jaquan Brisker issue with efficiency. Smith is a similar challenge. Merely on a grander scale. Getting this done would send a great message to the locker room that good players get rewarded by the organization.