The 25-year-old defender ended his “hold-in” on August 20, just 11 days after he publicly requested a trade, noting he was displeased with how general manager Ryan Poles was going about negotiations regarding a contract extension.
“The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself, and for the entire LB market if I signed it,” Smith wrote in his initial trade request. “I’ve been trying to get something done that’s fair since April, but their focus has been on trying to take advantage of me.”
After Smith ended his hold-in, he met with the media on August 20 and said that while he found negotiations for a new deal “distasteful to say the least,” talks of an extension were no longer happening and that his focus was solely on the season ahead.
As it turns out, Smith may have overplayed his hand when he asked for a trade. An August 21 report in The Athletic shed more light on why.
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Bears Never Tried to Shop Smith, Executives Say
According to eight executives from eight NFL teams, even if the Bears had tried to trade Smith — which they didn’t — he didn’t have much a market, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe wrote.
“Executives from eight teams told The Athletic over the past week the Bears never reached out to shop Smith,” Howe wrote. “Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean Poles didn’t quietly have conversations with other clubs, but word around the league was the Bears weren’t actively trying to move him. Those executives added they also weren’t trying to acquire him due to the complexity of Smith’s situation.”
NFL insider Ian Rapoport told 670 The Score’s Danny Parkins that Smith wanted a deal that would have surpassed the one inked by the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league, Shaquille Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts. Per Over the Cap, Leonard’s extension, which came in at just under $100 million for five years ($19.7 average per year), leads all linebackers, and Smith wants to reset the market. NFL execs told Howe this was another roadblock:
“The rival executives polled by The Athletic were unanimous in their belief that Smith is a good player, albeit short of a great one, and none were interested in approaching the contract parameters they believed Smith coveted — on top of surrendering a draft pick in a trade.”
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The 1 Trade Scenario That ‘Would’ve Made Sense’
There’s one situation in which a few executives who spoke to The Athletic could see Smith being traded. “A few executives said one scenario would’ve made sense for a trade — if a contender believed they were a linebacker short of a great defense, could give up a third-round pick (if that’s what the Bears would even hypothetically accept) and let Smith play out the final year before addressing his future in free agency,” Howe added.
It seems Smith’s interest in being traded was real. One of his friends and associates, Saint Omni, who is not a certified NFLPA agent, contacted other teams on his behalf, according to a memo released by the NFL Management Council.
Considering other teams’ lack of interest in Smith, it’s no surprise Poles didn’t pull the trigger on a trade. He and the Bears have all the leverage in this situation because Smith can be franchise-tagged in 2023, essentially tying him to the team for at least two more years.
If the Bears GM cannot or decides not to work out an extension with Smith, he’ll also have the option of trying a trade as the regular season progresses. Poles may be able to get more that a third-rounder for Smith if a contending team, as Howe mentioned, loses a key insider linebacker during the season. We’ll see how it plays out.