Roquan Smith requested a trade two weeks ago. He expressed displeasure at how the Chicago Bears handled his contract negotiations and wanted to go somewhere a team would pay him what he deserves. Such a stance isn’t anything new. Many players use the “trade me” tactic in contract talks. Smith likely hoped rookie GM Ryan Poles would cave under public pressure, either granting his request for a trade or come back with a higher offer.
Poles did neither. He held his ground in talks and refused to entertain the idea of a trade. As a result, Smith was left with few options. Either he continued his holdout into the regular season, or he returned to play out 2022 on the final year of his deal. Since the former would’ve cost him loads of money in fines, he chose to resume practicing. Jeff Howe of The Athletic revealed more details on how things played out.
He got in contact with several other league executives on the matter.
“Executives from eight teams told The Athletic over the past week the Bears never reached out to shop Smith. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean Poles didn’t quietly have conversations with other clubs, but word around the league was the Bears weren’t actively trying to move him.
Those executives added they also weren’t trying to acquire him due to the complexity of Smith’s situation.
Smith is set to earn $9.735 million this season on his fifth-year option and has publicly addressed his desire for an extension. It’s believed around the league Smith wants a contract in the neighborhood of $20 million in average annual value. Poles said Aug. 9 the Bears’ offer to Smith included “record-setting pieces of this contract.”
The rival executives polled by The Athletic were unanimous in their belief that Smith is a good player, albeit short of a great one, and none were interested in approaching the contract parameters they believed Smith coveted – on top of surrendering a draft pick in a trade.”
This paints a clear enough picture.
Though a two-time second-team All-Pro, Smith isn’t viewed as a true elite linebacker around the NFL. He has plenty of fans. That is obvious. However, none of them would surrender a high draft choice and $20 million per year to get him. On the other side, Poles wasn’t going to give up a top linebacker in his prime for a 3rd round pick. That is bad business. His best course of action was to maintain a firm stance on a specific number. Smith could accept it or gamble on himself having a career year in 2022. The linebacker chose door #2.
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Roquan Smith controls the narrative now.
He isn’t happy. That is obvious. He feels cheated out of what he deserves. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the business. Matters became complicated when GM Ryan Pace got fired in January. Smith’s leverage immediately lessened by not having the man who drafted him in charge. Then he made things worse by deciding to represent himself rather than hire a professional agent. His lack of experience and inability to not let negotiations get personal have been evident.
His only course ahead is to play great football. He will be 26 next year, so there is no risk of losing out on that huge payday he seeks. The tricky part is figuring out how to do it in an unfamiliar defense. The Bears aren’t running a 3-4 system anymore. Matt Eberflus brought the 4-3 with him from Indianapolis. Roquan Smith is moving from inside to outside linebacker. Such transitions aren’t easy.
That is another reason he returned to practice now rather than wait.
He has to start mastering the position as quickly as possible. Every second wasted could mean more dollars out of his bank account six months from now. The Bears have maintained their stance of wanting to sign him long-term. They’re willing to wait things out and see if Smith can keep being excellent in their system. If he balls out, he will get his money.