Bears Not Expected To Trade LB Roquan Smith

There are doubtlessly plenty of teams interested in acquiring Bears LB Roquan Smith in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Smith, though, is the midst of perhaps the best year of his career, and Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times says the team is not expected to deal its 2018 first-rounder.

Smith requested a trade in August, and he issued a statement indicating that the Bears’ front office was not negotiating a contract extension in good faith. Smith has been eligible for a new contract since the end of the 2020 campaign and is playing out the current season on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which is paying him a $9.7MM salary. However, he was reportedly pushing for an accord with an AAV of at least $20MM, a sum that would exceed the annual averages of First Team All-Pros Shaquille Leonard and Fred Warner. But unlike his fellow 2018 draftees, Smith does not have a Pro Bowl on his resume yet, let alone a First Team All-Pro selection.

Ultimately, Smith ended his training camp “hold-in” and returned to practice. At that time, we learned that Chicago GM Ryan Poles did not even initiate trade talks with other clubs, and teams that might have been interested were scared off by Smith’s contract demands. It was also reported that Smith is generally viewed as a good, but not great, defender.

Given the way he has performed this year, it is unlikely that Smith will be backing off his $20MM/year price, which could again complicate trade talks if Poles is interested in entertaining them. At this point, though, it seems as if the first-year GM views Smith — who profiles as a franchise tag candidate in 2023, despite the inevitable backlash a tag would engender — as a foundational piece that he will not move unless he is overwhelmed by an offer.

Even during his hold-in, Smith enjoyed the respect of his coaches and teammates, and nothing has changed in that regard. On the field, he currently leads the league with 78 total tackles and has added 2.5 sacks and two interceptions (he is one of just two LBs in the league with at least two picks). He has also taken every defensive snap, which is emblematic of the durability he displayed throughout his first four professional seasons.

In the interest of equal time, Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics have never been particularly high on Smith. The highest overall score he ever earned from PFF was 67.2 — a solid, if unspectacular, figure — in 2020. In 2021, he was assigned a poor 47.8 mark, and through the first seven games of 2022, his grade sits at 57.9. It is possible that the more analytically-minded front offices are the ones that do not believe Smith’s contract demands are commensurate with his abilities.

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