Roquan Smith is still holding out
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade last week. Smith, who is representing himself, has been holding out of practices in training camp while he negotiates a contract extension. Both camps seem to be a ways apart on the deal, and the Bears management appears frustrated with Smith not practicing after returning from the PUP list.
Because Smith does not have an agent representing him, the Bears are struggling with how to deal with what general manager Ryan Poles calls a “unique” situation. Trading Smith might cost the Bears value as other teams who trade for Smith would have to deal with a player who wants an expensive contract and who has no agent to bargain with.
PFF thinks Roquan Smith’s value is less than where he was drafted
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus wrote about ten potential trade candidates around the league and their value. Smith, whose name has been floating around quite a bit about being traded, made his list. Roquan Smith’s projected trade value was for a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 fifth-round pick, according to Spielberger:
Smith’s 78.7 coverage grade since 2018 ranks 11th among off-ball linebackers, and he was recently ranked as the 14th-best off-ball linebacker in the NFL in Sam Monson’s 2022 linebacker rankings. A move to Eberflus’ 4-3 base defense, where Smith is expected to play the weakside or “WILL” linebacker role after serving as the middle linebacker to start his career, is widely considered a perfect fit for his athletic profile. However, perhaps Chicago wants to see him in the new system before committing massive amounts of money.
If a trade is eventually explored, it could be tough for Chicago to recoup sufficient draft capital to justify a trade for a few reasons. First, the off-ball linebacker position has seen a devaluation across the league in recent years. And second, Smith is set to earn $9.735 million on his 2022 fifth-year option and any acquiring team would immediately have to make him the highest-paid player at his position, which would carry a price tag of at least $20 million per year.
The Seattle Seahawks’ trade of multiple first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams should serve as a cautionary tale for teams around the league about the danger of such an investment at a non-premium defensive position. That being said, perhaps a few of the team fits above still explore the idea, as it seems Smith’s request is a very real one.
The trade value for Roquan Smith is way too low
Roquan Smith is way too valuable of a player to be traded for anything less than a first-rounder and more. A first-round pick is still a gamble. And Smith is a known talent who has been successful for years in the league.
Smith has excelled at his position while being a first-round pick. If the Bears get less value in return than a first-round pick, that’s essentially saying he’s a bust, or that his value is less now than what it was when he was drafted.
(If it’s the case that a healthy linebacker, who’s a two-time second-team All-Pro, can have less value than what he was as a rookie, then what’s the point of drafting a linebacker in the first round?)
The Bears should be in no hurry to do anything with Smith other than let him sit. As I’ve written before, the team still has the option of a franchise tag next year. The Bears have no reason to rush into anything with Roquan Smith right now. They have all of the leverage in a rebuilding year.