Roquan Smith requested a trade two weeks ago. He expressed his displeasure with the way the Chicago Bears handled his contract negotiations and wanted to go somewhere where a team would pay him what he deserves. Such a position is not new. Many players use the “trade me” tactic in contract negotiations. Smith was likely hoping that rookie general manager Ryan Poles would bow under public pressure, either accepting his trade request or returning with a higher offer.
Neither do the Poles. He held firm in the talks and refused to entertain the idea of an exchange. As a result, Smith found himself with few options. Either he continued his resistance in the regular season or he returned to play in 2022 during the last year of his contract. As the former would have cost him a lot of money in fines, he chose to resume practice. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe has revealed more details about how things went down.
He got in touch with several other league executives about it.
“Executives from eight teams told The Athletic last week that the Bears I never contacted the Smith store. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Poles haven’t had quiet conversations with other clubs, but rumor has it around the league that the Bears weren’t actively trying to move him.
These executives added that they were also not trying to acquire it due to the complexity of Smith’s situation.
Smith is expected to earn $9.735 million this season on his fifth-year option and has publicly expressed his desire for an extension. It’s raw in the league Smith wants a contract worth around $20 million in average annual value. The Poles said Aug. 9 that the Bears’ offer to Smith included “record elements of that contract.”
Rival managers interviewed by The Athletic were unanimous in their belief that Smith is a good player, if not a great one, and none were interested in addressing the parameters of the contract they thought Smith coveted — in addition to giving up a draft pick in a trade.
This paints a pretty clear picture.
Although he was a two-time All-Pro on the second team, Smith is not considered a true elite linebacker in the NFL. He has a lot of fans. It’s obvious. However, none of them would give up a high draft pick and $20 million a year to get it. On the other side, the Poles weren’t going to give up a top linebacker in his prime for a 3rd round pick. It’s a bad deal. His best course of action was to maintain a firm position on a specific number. Smith could accept it or bet on himself having a career year in 2022. The linebacker picked the No. 2 gate.
Roquan Smith now controls the narrative.
He is not happy. It’s obvious. He feels deprived of what he deserves. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the business. Things got complicated when general manager Ryan Pace was fired in January. Smith’s influence immediately diminished by not having the man who drafted him in charge. Then he made matters worse by deciding to represent himself rather than hire a professional agent. His lack of experience and inability not to let negotiations get personal are evident.
His only path ahead of him is to play great football. He turns 26 next year, so there’s no risk of losing that huge salary he’s been looking for. The tricky part is figuring out how to do it in an unknown defense. The Bears no longer use a 3-4 system. Matt Eberflus brought the 4-3 home from Indianapolis. Roquan Smith moves from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. Such transitions are not easy.
This is another reason why he returned to training now rather than waiting.
He must begin to master the position as quickly as possible. Every second lost could mean more dollars in his bank account six months from now. The Bears maintained their position of wanting to sign him long term. They are willing to wait and see if Smith can continue to be great in their system. If he goes out, he’ll get his money.
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