While it appears as though the Chicago Bears have no intentions on trading two-time second team All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith, it’s still possible general manager Ryan Poles goes that route if the two sides remain at loggerheads.
The team hasn’t given Smith permission to seek a trade after the 25-year-old linebacker asked for one, but both sides have yet to work out a contract extension, either. The longer Poles goes without extending Smith, the louder the trade whispers will become.
There there may not be tons of teams willing to give up significant draft capital for an inside linebacker, but there could be a few willing to do a player-for-player swap. One Pittsburgh Steelers insider thinks a Chase Claypool-Roquan Smith trade could help both teams — and he also thinks the Steelers might throw in a draft pick or two to sweeten the deal.
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Steelers Could Use Game-Changing ILB
Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks the Steelers’ loaded WRs room might make them more willing to part with a young pass catcher. Pittsburgh drafted rookie receiver George Pickens in the second round, and he’s listed among the starters on the team’s first depth chart. The Steelers also just extended top wideout Diontae Johnson to a two-year extension worth $36.71 million, so Claypool seems like a potentially moveable piece.
Additionally, Pittsburgh could use a solid inside LB after Devin Bush has struggled. The Steelers declined to pick up his fifth-year option this year, and a linebacker of Smith’s caliber would shore up the position for the foreseeable future. They currently have just under $9.7 million in cap space according to Over the Cap, but Starkey thinks Pittsburgh might be willing to move some money around if it meant adding Smith.
“It would take some creative and perhaps magical salary cap finagling, but that’s why they pay new general manager Omar Khan the big bucks, right?” Starkey wrote on August 11. “These are the types of moves you can afford to make — the kinds of moves you should try to make — when you don’t have to pay a star quarterback hundreds of millions of dollars.”
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Smith for Claypool Swap?
Starkey also floated the idea that the Steelers might be willing to add a second-round pick or a few selections in the later rounds in exchange for Smith, but the former option doesn’t seem realistic at all.
“If I suggested Claypool and a second-round pick, would you think about it? How about Claypool and a couple of lower-round picks?” Starkey posed. “I like Claypool, but George Pickens profiles similarly. How about a package involving Diontae Johnson? That would be mighty bold.”
It would be beyond shocking if Pittsburgh moved on from Johnson, but Claypool and a few Day 3 picks seems reasonable. According to Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo, not many teams around the league may be willing to part with significant draft capital for Smith.
The Steelers may be one of the few compelling exceptions, however.
“Fact is, the Steelers have in recent years — for better or worse — made some awfully bold and unexpected moves,” Starkey added. “This one would top them all. … Long shot or not, the Steelers should be all over this.”
Claypool Would Give Justin Fields Solid WR2 With Upside
The Steelers selected Claypool in the second round (49th overall) out of Notre Dame in 2020, and he has performed well over his first two years in the NFL.
Claypool has played in 31 games over the 2020-21 seasons, starting 19. As a rookie in 2020, he caught 62 passes for 873 yards, tying for a team-high nine touchdowns in 16 games and six starts. In Year 2, the 24-year-old wideout put up similar numbers (although he had fewer scores), catching 59 passes for 860 yards and two TDs in 15 games.
The 6-foot-4, 238-pound Claypool would give Justin Fields a big-bodied target capable of stretching the field, and he’d be an immediate WR2 behind Darnell Mooney with the potential to grow into more.
A Claypool-for-Smith swap was also floated by NFL analyst Kyle Yates, who noted there “could be something there.”
As of now, it doesn’t appear as though the Bears plan to move Smith. But if they do, the Steelers feel like one of the only potential options.