Roquan Smith requested an exchange two weeks ago. He expressed his dismay at the way the Chicago Bears handled his contract negotiations and wanted to go somewhere where a team would pay him what he deserves. Such an attitude is not new. Many players use the “trade me” tactic in contract negotiations. Smith probably hoped that rookie GM Ryan Poles would succumb to public pressure, either grant his request for a trade or come back with a higher offer.
Poland didn’t either. He stood his ground and refused to entertain the idea of an exchange. As a result, Smith had few options. Either he continued his steadfastness in the regular season, or he returned to play 2022 in the final year of his deal. Since the first would have cost him a lot of money in fines, he chose to continue practicing. Jeff How of The Athletic revealed more details about how things turned out.
He came into contact with several other competition leaders about this.
“Managers of eight teams told The Athletic last week the Bears never contacted Smith. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Poles weren’t quietly holding talks with other clubs, but it was known throughout the competition that the Bears weren’t actively trying to move him.
Those executives added that they weren’t even trying to take him over because of the complexity of Smith’s situation.
Smith will earn $9.735 million this season from his fifth-year option and has publicly expressed his wish for an extension. It is believed throughout the competition Smith wants a contract close to $20 million in average annual value. Poland said on Aug. 9 that the Bears’ offer to Smith included “record-setting pieces of this contract.”
The rival executives surveyed by The Athletic were unanimous in their view that Smith is a good player, if not a great one, and no one was interested in approaching the contract parameters they believed Smith coveted—on top of giving up a design choice in an exchange. “
This gives a clear enough picture.
Although he is a two-time second-team All-Pro, Smith is not seen as a true elite linebacker around the NFL. He has many fans. That is obvious. However, none of them would give a high design choice and $20 million a year to get it. On the other hand, Poland was not about to give up a top linebacker in his prime for a third round. That’s a bad thing. His best course of action was to take a firm stance on a certain number. Smith could accept or bet that he had a career year in 2022. The linebacker chose door #2.
Roquan Smith now controls the story.
He’s not happy. That is obvious. He feels cheated of what he earns. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the business. Things got complicated when GM Ryan Pace was fired in January. Smith’s influence was immediately diminished by not having the man who had put him in charge. He then made matters worse by deciding to represent himself instead of hiring a professional agent. His lack of experience and inability not to let negotiations get personal were obvious.
His only course is to play great football. He’ll be 26 next year, so there’s no risk of missing out on that huge payday he’s looking for. The tricky part is figuring out how to do in an unfamiliar defense. The Bears no longer have a 3-4 system. Matt Eberflus brought the 4-3 from Indianapolis. Roquan Smith goes inside out linebacker. Such transitions are not easy.
That’s another reason why he now came back to practice instead of waiting.
He must master the position as soon as possible. Every second wasted could mean more dollars from his bank account six months from now. The Bears stuck to their position that they wanted to sign him for the long term. They are willing to wait things out and see if Smith can stay excellent in their system. If he gets balls, he gets his money.
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