Roquan Smith‘s stay on the Bears’ active/PUP list is over. The team activated the disgruntled linebacker Wednesday. This opens the door to Smith practicing or following through with his hold-in measure.
The fifth-year defender requested a trade out of Chicago on Tuesday morning, accusing the Bears of not negotiating in good faith. Prior to Smith going on the PUP list, however, he was planning to attend practices but not participate — a tactic that is becoming standard procedure for players in negotiations or those upset about their contracts.
Indeed, Smith is not expected to practice with his teammates, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (via Twitter). Teams can still fine players for attending practice and not practicing, but they have largely been reluctant to do so during the three-year run of hold-ins.
Bears GM Ryan Poles said the plan remains for the team to extend the standout middle linebacker, despite Smith’s trade request indicating he does not see a reasonable path back to his former role in the middle of Chicago’s defense. Smith’s Pro Bowl-less resume aside, he is one of the league’s top off-ball ‘backers. The two-time second-team All-Pro has not proven to be the best at his position, but that distinction does not stop players from commanding top dollar. It may well be pausing the Bears’ negotiations with their agent-less talent.
The Bears did shed four notable defender contracts this offseason, but they still have veterans Eddie Jackson and Robert Quinn on the payroll. The franchise, after building a top-tier defense around Khalil Mack, has decided to rebuild. Smith is undoubtedly angling to not only become the Bears’ highest-paid player but surpass Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year contract, which currently tops the off-ball linebacker market.
This activation will prevent Smith from being placed on the reserve/PUP list to start the season, ratcheting up this situation. A 2023 franchise tag does not seem especially realistic, with on- and off-ball linebackers grouped together on the tag. The 25-year-old defender would generate trade interest. The Bears can also up their offer — something Smith said the team has been reluctant to do — to a player who stands to be a long-term cornerstone. Teams with receivers holding in resolved those situations recently. Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf and Diontae Johnson are all back at work after signing big-ticket extensions.