Roquan Smith has established himself as one of the best young linebackers in the NFL.
Smith has led the Chicago Bears‘ defense in tackles every year since the team selected him eighth overall in 2018, netting over 100 tackles in each of his four seasons. He was fifth in the league in total tackles (163) in 2021, also finishing with 3.0 sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss, four QB hits, an interception and a defensive touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.
The young LB, who turned 25 in April, is likely going to be one of the team’s top building blocks for years to come. ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler reported on June 8 talks between Smith and the Bears regarding a contract extension are expected to “heat up some time this summer.” Nearly a month later, nothing has happened on that front yet.
The team’s first-year general manager, Ryan Poles, has endorsed Smith, while also remaining mum about any future contract talks. The likelihood is that the Bears will ink Smith to a massive extension, but if they don’t do it before the 2022 season begins, rumors of a possible trade could kick up a notch. Some analysts are already discussing that as an option.
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Analyst Says Smith Could Net 1st Round Pick in Trade
Noting Smith’s value due to age and performance, Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report thinks that because the young linebacker is one of the team’s top players, Chicago should be able to get a decent amount in return for him in a potential trade.
Knox knows trading Smith is a hugely unpopular idea amongst fans, though, and he addresses that in his July 4 column:
“Before you get angry, Bears fans, hear me out. Linebacker Roquan Smith is absolutely the sort of defender Chicago should build around long-term. He’s one of the league’s most underrated linebackers and was arguably one of the Pro Bowl’s biggest snubs in 2021,” Knox wrote, before revealing why he thinks the Bears could get a first-round pick in exchange for Smith:
The 25-year-old is also set to play on the fifth-year option in 2022, and if he doesn’t receive a contract extension soon, he could be on his way out the door in 2023. … Do the Bears want to invest heavily in Smith now when the playoffs may still be two or three years away? If the Bears are on the fence, you can bet that another contender would love to have Smith in its lineup. A trade could potentially net Chicago a second- or even a first-round pick in return—provided Smith is willing to sign an extension with his new team. That’s something Chicago would have to heavily consider.
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Bears HC Matt Eberflus ‘Will Carry Significant Weight’ in Deciding Smith’s Future
In addition to hiring Poles, the Bears added a new head coach in former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who previously worked with one of the NFL’s top linebackers in All-Pro Darius Leonard.
Bears insider Adam Jahns of The Athletic wrote on June 28 that the opinion and evaluation of Eberflus “will carry significant weight” when it comes to whether the Bears decide to extend Smith. That will depend “on whether the Bears believe he’s truly deserving of setting the market for interior linebackers,” Jahns added.
The Bears have over $23 million in cap space currently, according to Over the Cap, and they’ll have just under $100 million in 2023, so money isn’t an issue. They can afford to re-sign Smith, who told ESPN in April his “plan” was to remain in the Windy City. Again, that’s the most likely outcome. But after Poles traded Khalil Mack in March, the team’s rebuild officially began, and if an interested party offered a first-round pick and some change for Smith, Poles could absolutely take it.