Roquan Smith

Roquan Smith Returns To Practice; Plans To Remain With Bears In 2022

AUGUST 21: Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), Poles never initiated trade talks with other teams, thereby suggesting that he was sincere when he said he wanted to keep Smith in Chicago. In polling rival executives, The Athletic learned that Smith is viewed as a good player, but not a great one, and his $20MM/year ask significantly dampened his trade market.

Several of those executives said if the Bears would have accepted a third-round pick in exchange for Smith, a club that believed it was a strong ILB away from a top-tier defense might have made the move and worried about the contract situation in 2023, but it does not sound like an offer of that kind was ever made.

AUGUST 20: Roquan Smith has been in plenty of headlines recently, seeking a major extension and formally requesting a trade from the Bears. The linebacker has changed course dramatically today. 

Smith returned to practice for the first time since his ‘hold-in’ began at the onset of training camp, the team noted. In conjunction with that news, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the 25-year-old “now plans to play out his contract” (Twitter link). Smith has one year remaining on his rookie pact, and will earn just over $9.7MM on the fifth-year option.

As several extension-eligible players have done this offseason, the former first-rounder has used his training camp absence as an attempt to gain leverage in contract negotiations. After the Bears tabled what he described as a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer, Smith was reported to be seeking $20MM annually – an unprecedented rate for inside linebackers.

With the Bears’ front office, now led by new general manager Ryan Poles, not reaching that compensation threshold, Smith formally requested a trade earlier this month. It appeared at that point that his days in the Windy City were numbered, but now contract talks have ceased and the Georgia alum will indeed suit up for at least one more campaign with the Bears.

One relatively unique aspect of the negotiating process is the fact that Smith has been operating without an agent. When speaking about his talks with the front office, he used the word “distasteful” to describe them (Twitter link via Adam Jahns of The Athletic). In spite of that, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin tweets that Smith was not fined by the team for his absence from camp following their decision to remove him from the active/PUP list.

“This is the last year of my deal and I’m going to bet on myself as I’ve always done,” Smith also said (Twitter link via Cronin’s colleague Adam Schefter). Smith is currently scheduled for free agency next March, but the possibility remains that the Bears use the franchise tag to keep him in the fold for at least the 2023 campaign. With a performance similar to his previous two years in particular (in which he has earned Second-Team All-Pro honors), Smith could certainly boost his market value, either for outside teams to sign him or in a tag-and-trade scenario.

“We were super excited about that with him,” head coach Matt Eberflus said, via Cronin, of Smith’s return to practice (Twitter link). “He’s ramping up to get ready to go.” Smith will be counted on as a crucial member of the rebuilding Bears’ defense, which has moved on from several expensive veterans, but his long-term future remains very much in the air.

NFC North Notes: Smith, Lions, Vikings

A strange situation may be developing in Chicago. Roquan Smith made his trade request public earlier this week, and the standout linebacker is staging a hold-in effort at Bears camp. Smith does not have an agent, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports a person claiming to represent the fifth-year defender has been contacting teams to gauge trade interest. The person calling teams is not an NFLPA-certified agent, per Florio, and the Bears have not given Smith permission to seek a trade. The team still wants to extend the two-time second-team All-Pro, even though Smith does not have much hope for salvaging this situation. A team that negotiated with this unknown Smith representative would face tampering charges. While teams are interested in the former top-10 pick, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus does not expect a first-round pick to be offered — if it reaches the point the Bears are fielding offers.

Here is the latest from the rest of the NFC North:

  • The Lions signed veteran wide receiver Devin Funchess and converted him to tight end, a position where he spent some time while a Michigan freshman in 2012. Funchess is not a lock to make the Lions’ roster, and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes the team may only keep three tight ends. In addition to T.J. Hockenson, Dan Campbell plans to a keep a blocking tight end and an all-purpose player. Funchess would obviously be competing for the latter spot, with Birkett adding Shane Zylstra and fifth-round pick James Mitchell are in that group as well. Garrett Griffin and Brock Wright are vying for the blocking gig. Funchess would still have practice squad eligibility, and teams can still keep 16 players on their taxi squads.
  • Detroit also brought back Jarrad Davis this offseason, but the former first-round pick is not a lock to make the team. Davis has worked with the second- and third-team defenses in training camp, per Birkett, who adds the ex-Florida standout might need to show he can be a productive special teams player to make the team. Davis logged a career-high 46% special teams snap rate with the Jets last season. The Lions are not particularly deep at linebacker, but this regime did not draft Davis, who was brought in during Jim Caldwell‘s final season under GM Bob Quinn. Davis, 27, started 45 games for the Lions from 2017-20.
  • Despite the Vikings selecting Kellen Mond in last year’s third round, they brought back Sean Mannion for another potential run as Kirk Cousins‘ backup. The two have split time behind Cousins at training camp, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson. They are listed as co-backups on Minnesota’s depth chart, with Mond — after a year of seasoning — seemingly having a better chance to move into the QB2 role. Under Mike Zimmer, Mond worked only with the Vikings’ third-team offense. The quarterback said earlier this offseason he played at less than full strength throughout his rookie year due to contracting COVID-19 during camp.

Roquan Smith Seeking $20MM Per Year?

Coming off the Bears’ active/PUP list Wednesday, Roquan Smith is waging a hold-in measure. In his trade request sent Tuesday, the fifth-year linebacker said the Bears have submitted a “take it or leave it offer” that would hurt the market.

The Bears are, however, negotiating with Smith himself — he does not have an agent — and Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus notes the team has come up from its initial proposal. But the team is also believed to be negotiating with a player who wants to become the NFL’s first $20MM-per-year off-ball linebacker. Smith wants a deal that pays him “at least” $20MM per annum, Kyed adds.

With first-team All-Pros Shaquille Leonard and Fred Warner positioned as the only traditional linebackers earning at least $18MM per year — at $19.7MM and $19.4MM on average, respectively — this has obviously made for a complex Bears negotiating process. Smith, 25, is a two-time second-team All-Pro.

Bears GM Ryan Poles said the team still wants to extend Smith and called some parts of the offer “record-setting,” but Smith classified the proposal as backloaded. Backloading deals to inflate AAV figures has come up this offseason. The Raiders and Dolphins used this blueprint with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, respectively, while Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. turned down a proposal with a whopping final-year figure.

The linebacker market changed significantly three years ago, when C.J. Mosley landed a $17MM-per-year pact from the Jets. Still attached to that accord, Mosley has only seen Leonard, Warner and Bobby Wagner top that deal. The Seahawks shed Wagner’s $18MM-AAV accord from their payroll in March. Going into the 2019 offseason, Luke Kuechly‘s $12.36MM-per-year pact had stood as the linebacker standard for three years. Teams’ calculus regarding true linebackers changed thanks to the previous Jets regime’s Mosley decision. The market still only houses three linebackers making more than $15MM per year as well.

With the Bears hiring Matt Eberflus as head coach, Smith would also be transitioning to a new defense. He produced consistently in Chicago’s previous 3-4 scheme, however, racking up 302 tackles (30 for loss) and seven sacks over the past two years. The TFL number is particularly impressive. Only T.J. Watt, who plays a pass-rushing position and is coming off a season in which he matched the single-season sack record, has recorded more TFLs (44) among linebackers since 2020. Among true off-ball ‘backers, Smith’s 30 lead the field by seven in this span.

Smith’s age and production would generate a market, if the rebuilding Bears to honor his trade request. The Commanders reside as a team some in league circles believe would be a fit, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Washington used a first-round pick on Jamin Davis last year, but he struggled as a rookie. The team also has Cole Holcomb going into a contract year. The Broncos also could be a fit, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Denver may have been a better fit last year, with ex-Chicago DC Vic Fangio at the helm, but the team has been looking at linebackers recently. Of course, pursuing the likes of Anthony Barr and Joe Schobert and trading reasonable draft capital for Smith are different matters. The Broncos also do not have their first- or second-round picks in 2023, thanks to the Russell Wilson trade.

Bears Activate LB Roquan Smith

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.

Bears GM: Team Intends To Extend Roquan Smith

Roquan Smith made some waves Tuesday morning by sending out a trade request. Hours later, the other key party in this negotiation — Bears GM Ryan Poles — responded by indicating Smith is still in the team’s plans.

The rookie GM said the intention still is to sign Smith, via the Chicago Sun-Times Jason Lieser (on Twitter), though Poles said he has to “do what’s best for the team.” Smith has been extension-eligible since January 2021, but the former top-10 pick is still tied to his fifth-year option salary ($9.7MM).

My feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” Poles said, via The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (on Twitter). “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we’re at right now. I thought we’d be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you.

“In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I’ve always believed that we take care of our homegrown talent. We pay them and we take care of them.”

Poles is not ruling out a trade, Lieser tweets, but that is not the new Bears boss’ goal here. It would, however, be consistent with an offseason of change in Chicago. In his first months as GM, Poles has largely dismantled Chicago’s once-formidable front seven.

Khalil Mack is now a Charger, being traded for second- and sixth-round picks, and Akiem Hicks is a Buccaneer, having signed with Tampa Bay after Chicago did not make a known effort to retain him in free agency. Poles also cut longtime starters Eddie Goldman, who has since retired, and Danny Trevathan. Robert Quinn may still loom as a trade candidate, though the defensive end said recently he does not wish to be dealt for a third time.

Smith has accused the Bears of not negotiating in good faith, having reportedly received a backloaded offer that would be “bad for the LB market.” Poles offered a counter of sorts, indicating there are “record-setting pieces” within the Bears’ proposal. Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year contract currently tops the off-ball linebacker market.

With this situation, we’ve shown respect from a very early timeframe,” Poles said. “With that said, there are record-setting pieces of this contract that I knew for a fact, I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case. With that said, we can’t lose sight that this isn’t about one player. My job is to build a roster that is going to sustain success for a long period of time.”

The Bears still have Eddie Jackson around from Ryan Pace‘s batch of defensive extensions, but the rest of the group that helped Chicago rise to a top-five defense is gone. Matt Eberflus appears to have a fixer-upper on his hands, with the Bears’ offseason not making it a secret the team is rebuilding.

But the Bears have nearly $19MM in cap space and do not have many known long-term cornerstones or high-end contracts on their roster. Smith, 25, would certainly profile as a building-block player. Although the fifth-year inside linebacker has no Pro Bowls on his resume, he is a two-time second-team All-Pro. The Bears could also extract some value for the Georgia product in a trade, though that would leave the team quite thin at linebacker. A subsequent Quinn trade would require a near-full-scale rebuild along Chicago’s front seven.

Trade requests, of course, do not always precede trades. The 49ers’ Deebo Samuel saga is the latest negotiation to produce an extension following a trade request. The 49ers also had a Samuel franchise tag in their back pocket. Unless the Bears are prepared to carry a $20MM Smith cap charge on their 2023 books come March, with on- and off-ball linebackers grouped together on the tag, they do not have such a luxury. That raises the stakes for this summer’s negotiations a bit.

Bears LB Roquan Smith Requests Trade

Roquan Smith‘s hold-in effort has taken a turn. The standout linebacker does not appear on the cusp of being extended and is instead requesting to be traded from the Bears.

The fifth-year defender put out a statement (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, on Twitter) indicating the Bears have failed to negotiate in good faith and do not appropriately value him. Noting he has not yet spoken with the McCaskey family during his extension talks, Smith pins the blame on a new Bears regime that has attempted to “take advantage of me.”

This request stems from the Bears submitting a “take it or leave it” offer that would be “bad for myself and the entire LB market,” Smith adds, and Rapoport notes the team’s backloaded proposal contains de-escalators and does not top Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year Colts contract (Twitter link). The linebacker market moved last year, when Leonard and Fred Warner‘s deals came in above Bobby Wagner‘s previous positional record.

Both Leonard and Warner — each part of Smith’s draft class, though their non-first-round statuses made them priorities a year ahead of Smith — are signed to accords north of $19MM per year. Like Wagner, Smith is not believed to have an agent. A family member has advised him during the Bears’ negotiations. The Bears chose Smith eighth overall in 2018, and their defense is now short on veteran contracts.

Smith is coming off a season in which he played all 17 Bears games and made a career-best 163 tackles. Despite playing off the ball, Smith has 14 career sacks as well. Pro Football Focus, however, rated Smith outside its top 60 off-ball ‘backers in 2021, interestingly rating his run defense as far inferior to his coverage performance.

Smith’s accolades do not match Leonard’s or Warner’s, complicating these negotiations. But he is undoubtedly pushing to join those standouts atop the linebacker market. Earlier this summer, Ryan Poles said a new deal before the season was not a lock but indicated discussions ahead of camp were on tap. The former top-10 pick has upped the pressure on the rookie GM. Smith, who is on the Bears’ active/PUP list, is currently tied to a $9.735MM fifth-year option salary.

A zero-time Pro Bowler but a two-time second-team All-Pro, Smith is one of the final veterans standing from a top-tier Bears defense. The team traded Khalil Mack, cut Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman and let Akiem Hicks leave in free agency. Robert Quinn was linked to wanting a trade earlier this offseason, and while the veteran now seems somewhat out of place on what has become a rebuilding team’s defense, he said late last month he is not seeking to be dealt. But Quinn has already signed two big-ticket deals. Smith, 25, is seeking his first veteran contract.

Considering the salary cap’s stabilization, after 2021 brought just its second-ever reduction, Smith almost certainly would not accept a deal south of C.J. Mosley‘s $17MM-per-year accord. That sits third on the linebacker spectrum, with the Seahawks shedding Wagner’s contract in March. The Bears would have the option of the franchise tag in 2023, though that route is not as clear-cut as it is with most other positions. Since outside and inside linebackers are grouped together on the tag, the position carried the second-highest tag price ($18.7MM) this year. That lofty figure limits the Bears’ options with their extension-seeking middle ‘backer.

The Bears are carrying more than $18MM in cap space, placing them in the top 10 for available funds. They are also eating more than $57MM in dead money, with previous Mack restructures responsible for much of that figure. Smith’s trade request comes a year after Allen Robinson detailed frustrations about his negotiating efforts with the Bears, though Smith’s frustrations lie with new front office personnel.

The Georgia product said he wanted to stay with the Bears throughout his career but does not “see a path back to the organization.” With Smith one of the only foundational pieces left on Chicago’s defense, the ball will be in Poles’ court for the time being.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/27/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: OL Keenan Forbes, G Eric Wilson

Latest On Bears LB Roquan Smith

Many of the biggest names around the NFL have reported to their team’s training camps already, or are expected to when practices begin later this week. The situation is significantly different in Chicago as it pertains to linebacker Roquan Smith

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Smith will not participate in the Bears’ camp tomorrow, the scheduled day for veterans to report (Twitter link). He therefore represents the first known case of a “hold-in” in 2022. Finances are at the heart of the move; Smith is set to play on the fifth-year option this season, which is valued at $9.74MM. The veteran linebacker is not attached to an agent, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, who notes a family member is in an advisory role here.

A long-term deal has widely been viewed as the goal on both sides, given Smith’s ascendance into one of the league’s top young linebackers. In 2021, he ranked fifth in the NFL with 163 tackles, adding three sacks, an interception and three pass breakups. The idea of an extension has been in consideration for months, but little progress has clearly been made.

When asked about getting a deal finalized before the start of the 2022 campaign, new general manager Ryan Poles said in May, “I don’t know if that’s how we’re going to handle it, but I would like to. Obviously the earlier you get to that, the better. But also with a new staff, we may wait a little bit, too.”

Rapoport adds that the 25-year-old has not received an offer that he would “remotely consider” to date, leading to his decision to sit out. The LB market hasn’t seen the upward trend of other position groups this offseason, but the deal given to Foyesade Oluokun in free agency (averaging $15MM per year) could be used as a benchmark in negotiations.

The Bears have moved on from a number of expensive front seven veterans this spring, freeing up future cap space as they look to rebuild around a new core. Smith figures to be a central member of that group, but plenty of work apparently needs to be done before he is officially on the books for the long-term future.

Extension Candidate: Roquan Smith

Although the Bears have a new regime in place, one that has gutted the previous staff’s front seven, Roquan Smith‘s status with the organization still appears secure.

One season, at a fifth-year option price of $9.74MM, remains on the linebacker’s rookie contract. New Bears GM Ryan Poles is planning to discuss a Smith extension, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required). The prospect of a new deal before the season looms, though it is not a lock.

I don’t know if that’s how we’re going to handle it, but I would like to,” Poles said, via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin. “Obviously the earlier you get to that, the better. But also with a new staff, we may wait a little bit, too.”

The rebuilding Bears no longer have too much money tied to their defense, with several veteran deals coming off their books in March. Smith, who said in April he “absolutely” seeks a long-term Chicago stay, represents the team’s front-seven cornerstone and would make sense as the first big defensive investment for Poles and Matt Eberflus. Though, the off-ball linebacker market has changed considerably since the Ryan Pace regime drafted Smith.

The talented off-ball ‘backer has been a starter since going off the 2018 draft board eighth overall, teaming with Danny Trevathan in Vic Fangio-, Chuck Pagano– and Sean Desai-coordinated 3-4 schemes. The Bears are shifting to a 4-3 alignment under new Eberflus, but teams pay up for defenders’ sub-package usage. Smith, 25, has been a three-down player throughout his career.

Smith is coming off another strong season, one in which he paired 163 tackles with three sacks and a pick-six. He has 14 career sacks and also accumulated 30 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Smith’s 30 TFLs since 2020 not only lead all off-ball linebackers by a wide margin; that total sits second to only T.J. Watt among all linebackers. While no Pro Bowls appear on Smith’s resume, the four-year veteran has received second-team All-Pro nods in each of the past two years.

Poles has moved four Pace-era extensions off the roster, taking on some dead money to do so. He signed off on cutting Trevathan, a six-year Chicago starter, and nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who was a D-line first-stringer for six years. The Bears traded Khalil Mack, severing ties with the All-Pro edge rusher after four seasons (and taking on $24MM-plus in dead money). Six-year D-end starter Akiem Hicks signed with the Buccaneers on Tuesday. Robert Quinn has been with the Bears two years and broke Richard Dent‘s single-season team sack record in 2021. But the 11-year veteran does not seem a fit on a team that looks unlikely to contend this season. Quinn, 31, is believed to want out. Smith, however, is much younger than his longtime teammates, being squarely in his prime.

Smith’s option price would have been higher were he selected to a Pro Bowl. That promises to come up once the Bears begin negotiations in earnest; so do the second-team All-Pro accolades. The top of the linebacker market moved last year, with Fred Warner ($19MM per year) and Darius Leonard ($19.7MM AAV) using the C.J. Mosley and Bobby Wagner contracts as springboards to raise the ceiling of a positional landscape that looked drastically different prior to Mosley’s 2019 Jets pact ($17MM AAV).

Eberflus’ past with Leonard certainly bodes well for Smith. Still, a gap between the Leonard-Warner-Mosley tier and the field exists. Only two other traditional linebackers — Deion Jones (on a 2019 extension, one that may be shed soon) and ex-teammate Foyesade Oluokun — currently earn at least $14MM per year. The salary cap’s renewed growth, following its second-ever reduction in 2021, also stands to help extension-seeking players this year.

The gaps in between these linebacker salary tiers create some space for Smith’s camp to negotiate while also injecting some uncertainty into the talks. Smith can set his price above Jones ($14.25MM per year), Oluokun ($15MM AAV) and probably Mosley, but it will be interesting to see how the Bears’ new regime values him in comparison to first-team All-Pros Warner and Leonard.

Bears LB Roquan Smith Not Pushing For Extension

While one of his teammates may be pushing for a new contract, Roquan Smith isn’t thinking about his next big deal. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, the Bears linebacker said he isn’t thinking about his inevitable extension.

[RELATED: NT Eddie Goldman No-Shows Bears Mandatory Minicamp]

“That’s going to come when it comes,” Smith said (via Sean Hammon of the Daily Herald). “I’m not too focused on that. My main focus right now is OTAs, getting out here with my teammates.”

The linebacker also noted that staying in Chicago is “definitely something” he wants. Smith was one of the few veteran defenders to show up to Bears OTAs (alongside defensive backs Tashaun Gipson and Desmond Trufant), and he certainly wasn’t going to skip mandatory minicamp in pursuit of his next deal.

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, in my opinion,” Smith said. “So I feel like there’s a lot of things I’ve learned out there, bonding with some of new guys that are here, with some of the rookies as well, and also just learning little new things into the defense.”

The Bears picked up the 2018 first-round pick’s fifth-year option earlier this offseason, meaning Smith will earn around $9.735MM in 2022. While the 24-year-old still has two years remaining on his rookie deal, he could certainly make an argument for a raise. The former No. 8 pick has started 42 of his 44 games for the Bears, and he enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020, compiling 139 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, four sacks, seven passes defensed, and 2 interceptions.