Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith has officially requested a trade.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 9, 2022
Smith is currently scheduled to play the 2022 campaign under the fifth-year player option. It guarantees Smith a salary of $9.735 million for the upcoming season. Smith has been attempting to negotiate a long-term contract with new Bears general manager Ryan Poles but alleges that the new regime doesn’t value what he brings to the table.
A corresponding report indicates the Bears made a “take it or leave it” backloaded offer which wouldn’t make Smith the highest paid linebacker in actual salary. Chicago’s offer is also said to include proposed de-escalators that not a single player out of the 94 non-quarterback, $15-plus million contracts includes. Smith was understandably offended by such an unprecedented approach.
Smith recorded career highs in total tackles (163) while also accumulating 12.0 tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, three sacks, three pass breakups, and one interception last season. Smith’s market could heat up rather quickly. We’ve identified three potential landing spots for Smith via trade.
Former Bears general manager Ryan Pace originally drafted Smith with the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Pace now works for the Falcons as a senior personnel executive. Pace’s influence has been immediately felt in Atlanta. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot has signed six ex-Bears this offseason, including Damien Williams, Germain Ifedi, and Eddie Goldman (pre-retirement), to name a few.
Smith was born in Mount Vernon, Georgia. It gives the Falcons a rare opportunity to acquire a Georgia native that would be warmly embraced by their community. Furthermore, the Falcons lost linebacker Foyesade Oluokun in free agency, who led the team in tackles last season. Fontenot replaced Oluokun with a low-cost option in Rashaan Evans, who defensive coordinator Dean Pees previously coached in Tennessee. Evans is a bridge option at best, and his presence shouldn’t deter the Falcons from pursuing Smith.
The Falcons are currently set to possess approximately $29.8 million in cap space next offseason, per Spotrac. They have the financial flexibility necessary to sign Smith to a long-term deal. Pace’s presence in Atlanta, coupled with their need at linebacker, makes the Falcons the most realistic landing spot for Smith.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
The Raiders’ new regime isn’t afraid to make a splash. General manager Dave Ziegler executed one of the blockbusters of the summer when he acquired Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers. Ziegler also signed EDGE Chandler Jones to a lucrative contract in free agency. The Raiders are aiming to compete for the division title in the new-look AFC West. Trading for a linebacker like Smith would strengthen their chances.
The Raiders have already lost a few linebackers to injury this summer, which potentially cracks the door open for them to make a move at the position. Both Kyler Fackrell and Micah Kiser have already suffered season-ending injuries. Ziegler took a chance on former Titans linebacker Jayon Brown this offseason, who’s a reclamation project. Brown’s career has been derailed by injury. Catapulting Brown into a starting role is a bold strategy for a franchise with postseason aspirations. Smith would immediately provide the Raiders with a much-needed upgrade at linebacker.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Smith-to-the-Chargers hype train has already left the station. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco is one of the most aggressive decision-makers in the NFL. It wouldn’t be shocking if Telesco at least inquired about Chicago’s asking price for Smith.
It’s worth noting the Chargers already executed one blockbuster trade with the Bears this offseason, acquiring EDGE Khalil Mack. A good working relationship between Poles and Telesco could help these conversations take place.
Can the Chargers afford to trade for Smith and extend him to the tune of nearly $20 million annually? It’s a fair question worth asking.
Telesco has spent a significant amount of money and capital on his defense this offseason. In addition to Mack, the Chargers also paid cornerback J.C. Jackson handsomely. Several other front-seven acquisitions were made, too. Superstar safety Derwin James is awaiting a new extension, and the Chargers are probably already preparing for an inevitable Justin Herbert contract that could be of the record-breaking variety.
Telesco has been a wizard maneuvering the cap this offseason. If Telesco could somehow manage to fit Smith into his plans without sacrificing much elsewhere, it would represent another massive addition to a revamped Chargers defense.