It was a natural occurrence.
After announcing he would like to be traded via a statement he sent to insider Ian Rapoport, Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith immediately became the subject of trade rumors and numerous hypothetical scenarios — but a few NFL insiders and people in the know think there are some teams who will have strong, legitimate interest in trading for Smith.
Smith, 25, is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract and is set to earn a base salary of over $9.7 million in 2022, per Over the Cap. He’s likely looking to ink a record-setting deal for inside linebackers, which would come in around $20 million per season. That’s slightly more than what the league’s highest paid ILB, Shaq Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, makes ($19.7 million per year) — and insiders say there are teams ready to contend who may be willing to give Smith the major money he’s looking for.
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Ravens, Steelers & Chiefs Among Teams Named as Potential Trade Partners
PFF cap analyst and insider Brad Spielberger listed the Pittsburgh Steelers as a team who might “explore a trade” for Smith. Based on the Steelers’ available draft capital (they have picks in every round except Round 5 in 2023) and their defense-first mindset, Spielberger may be onto something. Per OTC, the Steelers, who are a perennial contender, currently have $9,685,599 in cap space.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN listed the Baltimore Ravens ($8,271,519 in available cap space) and Kansas City Chiefs ($9,500,197) as other potential contenders who might be willing to shell out some money for Smith’s contract extension, with the Ravens being the better fit of the two scheme-wise.
“The Ravens courted Bobby Wagner in free agency, and though Smith would cost more, he’s also seven years younger than Wagner and could pair with Patrick Queen as game-wreckers in the middle,” Fowler wrote. “Scouts see this as a scheme fit, with Smith’s makeup playing to Baltimore’s AFC North toughness quotient.”
While the Ravens, Chiefs and Steelers don’t have tons of cap space, they can absolutely move money around to make room for Smith if they want to add him badly enough.
There’s another AFC contender to consider, however.
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Chargers Also Getting Mentioned as Fit for Smith
Both Fowler and Justin Melo of The Draft Network also pegged the Los Angeles Chargers as a prime contender to trade for Smith, which makes a ton of sense, based on Smith’s history with current Chargers coach Brandon Staley, who served as Chicago’s outside linebackers coach from 2017 to 2018.
L.A. also traded for Bears All-Pro Khalil Mack this offseason, and its general manager, Tom Telesco, has been beyond aggressive when it comes to adding players to the Chargers defense. There is one issue, though.
“One hurdle here is the Chargers have their own negotiation to worry about as they try to close out a deal with star safety Derwin James,” Fowler wrote. “They also have a heavy payroll with eight different players carrying a cap hit of $8-plus million in 2022. But head coach Brandon Staley’s connection with Smith from their Chicago days together, coupled with the Chargers’ win-now approach with Justin Herbert on a rookie contract, makes them a team to consider.”
It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. The Bears announced on August 10 they had removed Smith from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means they can now fine him for every practice and preseason game he misses moving forward. What general manager Ryan Poles and company chose to do will be very telling. Stay tuned.