The Bears endured a turbulent offseason with their best defensive player.
Linebacker Roquan Smith abruptly requested a trade for his contract year after staying mom until the start of preseason games. He also didn’t hesitate to explain why he wanted to leave the Windy City: He said the team didn’t “appreciate” him.
There was also an odd subplot to this drama, and it had to do with Smith’s “agent.” Quotation marks are necessary as there is almost no record of the player’s putative representative.
But now Smith is fully committed and the contract negotiations are not taking up all the air in the room. He seemed in good spirits during the Bears’ Week 1 win over the 49ers, so there doesn’t appear to be any hiccups this season.
The Sporting News looks at the Smith drama:
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Why did Roquan Smith request a trade from the Bears?
Smith was cheerful heading into the preseason, but the statement he released on Aug. 9 was trenchant and painted the Bears in a very bad light.
“To the City of Chicago and all Bears fans worldwide, I have officially requested a trade; writing these words is deeply painful.” Smith wrote.
The rest of his statement:
I’m a kid from Macon County, Georgia. Growing up watching football dreams of one day making the NFL. However, if you’re playing the linebacker position, you can NEVER imagine being drafted into the top 10 by the Chicago Bears! I’m a native bear! A dream come true for me, to have the opportunity to put on the Bears’ helmet, to wear the same jersey worn by the legendary LBs, it’s an indescribable feeling.
If you’ve walked these hallways for the past four years, you can feel the spirit, you can feel the pressure of living up to this timeless story, this great legacy. I dreamed of playing like Wilbur Marshall, Singletary, Briggs, Urlacher, Butkus! Since the day I was drafted I have vowed to play that position at a level that will uphold the standard set before me to maintain that respect and honor and I have done so.
Unfortunately, the new front office regime doesn’t value me here. They have refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of this journey has been a take it or leave it. The deal sent to me would be bad for me and the entire LB market if I signed it. I’ve been trying to get something fair since April but they’re focused on taking advantage of me.
I’ve wanted to be a bear my entire career and help this team bring a Super Bowl back to our city. However, they gave me no choice but to request a trade that will allow me to play for an organization that truly values what I bring to the table.
I haven’t had a chance to speak to the McCaskey family and maybe they can salvage that, but right now I see no going back to the organization that I truly love.
There is not much to read in this statement. Smith doesn’t believe the team is negotiating in good faith. Officially, Smith represents himself, so General Ryan Poles’ first-year negotiations seem to have angered Smith.
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Why is Roquan Smith still playing for the Bears?
For one, holdouts are extremely rare. But there’s another very good reason Smith wasn’t traded.
Part of the trade request process – measuring the interest of other teams – would have to be handled by Smith since he is his own agent. A man named Saint Omni reportedly did this once, but he would have done it in an unofficial capacity as he is not certified by the NFL Players Association.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a player going through a training camp.
Smith announced shortly after his request that he intended to play out the season, though relations with the Bears still ring icy.
“There are no other offers at the moment and I don’t think there will be any more during the season,” Smith said. “My focus has shifted to the season, so that’s what I’m concentrating on right now. It’s been an amazing four years and, hey, five, why not make something special out of it? So that’s my plan. … My full intention is to play this season and whatever happens, happens. Whatever I have to go through this season I’ll do it, chin up, chest out, sunsets, no regrets.
For what it’s worth, Smith had a lot of fun in the Bears’ wet Week 1 win:
— NFL Movies (@NFLFilms) September 14, 2022
Smith will be making big bucks next offseason, that’s for sure. It’s possible he’s looking for a deal like TJ Watt, while the Bears appear to be paying him like Shaquille Leonard. It is unlikely that there will be a solution this year. But don’t expect Smith to take his foot off the gas to chase the ball because of that.