Potential Trade Destinations for LB Roquan Smith Bears | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

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It was already a long season for Chicago Bears fans. The team is coming off a six-game winning campaign and has (on paper) arguably the most unstoppable offense in the NFL. In the last series of NFL Power Rankings here at Bleacher Report, the Bears finished 15th in the NFC and 30th overall.

Well, as the saying goes, “Things never get so bad they can’t get any worse.” That’s what happened at Windy City on Tuesday, when perhaps the best player on the list
asked for an exchange.

Losing inside linebacker Roquan Smith would be a short-term blow to the field, but it’s also a trade that could earn the rebuilding Bears some top-notch draft capital. If the 25-year-old is determined to leave town, the next step for player and team is to figure out who cares enough about Smith to make the trade worthwhile – and what they might be ready to give up.

As Smith heads into the fifth and final season of his rookie contract, rumors abound of extension negotiations. On July 26, the Bears’ new general manager, Ryan Poles, attempted to put a positive spin on negotiations with Smith. talking to reporters:

“My feelings for Roquan don’t change at all. I love the player and the person. And that won’t change. The one thing I’ll ask everyone here, I know I’m going to have a lot of questions and I understand. I’m just not going to talk about contracts and stuff, so I just wanted to make sure we talked about it. As far as my feelings for him, nothing changes.

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But things were apparently anything but positive given the scathing statement Smith penned on Tuesday.

“The new front office regime doesn’t like me here. They refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of this journey was ‘take it or leave it’. The deal sent to me would be bad for myself, and for the whole LB market if I signed him. I’ve been trying to do something fair since April, but their focus has been trying to take advantage of me.

“I wanted to be a bear for my entire career, help this team bring a (Super Bowl) back to our city. However, they left me no choice but to ask for a trade that allows me to play for an organization. who really values ​​what I bring to the table.”

To be fair, he left the door open for the relationship to be repaired, and it’s possible that Smith (who doesn’t have an agent) is trying to gain leverage via public support. But on the face of it, his statement says, “Get me out of here.”

Losing Smith would be a blow to a team that can’t afford him this year if they’re even going to fake competitiveness. Smith has surpassed 100 total tackles in his four pro seasons, adding 14 sacks and five interceptions. Last year, he finished fifth in the league with 163 total tackles and had a passer rating against in coverage of only 76.8.

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Athlon Sports
ranked Smith his No. 7 linebacker last month, noting:

“While he can run from sideline to sideline, Smith is also an underrated blitzer who times his rushes well. He’s also durable, playing over 1,000 snaps each of the past two seasons. In 2022 under another defensive training regimen, Smith should be the focal point of a rebuilt Bears defense.”

Of course, that’s part of the problem for Smith. The NFL just doesn’t value off-ball linebackers the way it does cornerbacks or edge-rushers. For Spotracthe league’s seventh-highest-paid inside linebacker is Bobby Wagner of the Rams, who averages $10 million per season.

At 32, Wagner is much older than Smith, but he’s also much more accomplished and has only been in Los Angeles since the Seahawks released him on his high salary. Only two off-ball linebackers in the league earn more than $15 million in average annual salary.

For a trade to be viable, the Bears need a partner with the cap space to absorb a Smith extension, a need at the linebacker dire enough to consider paying Smith, and the impetus to not only give up all that money , but also a lot of draft Capital.

It’s not a long list. But there are a few teams that come to mind.

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Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders have made it clear they are ready for a deep playoff series in 2022. That became apparent when the team traded for star receiver Davante Adams. But even after giving Adams a massive $140 million extension, the Raiders are still sitting on $22.3 million in ceiling space. Only the Cleveland Browns have more.

The Raiders have no shortage of offensive talent, but the team’s 19th-ranked run defense is another story. Denzel Perryman had by far the best year of his professional career in 2021, but it was the first time in seven years that he even had 75 tackles in one season. Youngster Divine Deablo is a converted safety, and free agent addition Jayon Brown fell out of favor in Tennessee last year.

Adding Smith wouldn’t be cheap, in terms of pick or salary. But if he’s the missing piece of the puzzle that gets the Raiders to their first Super Bowl since 2002, no one will care even a bit about what it costs.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Raiders aren’t the only AFC West team to push their chips mid-table this year. The Chargers followed suit, (coincidentally) trading with the Bears for rusher Khalil Mack and signing cornerback JC Jackson in free agency. That spending spree leaves the Chargers with just under $15 million in cap space.

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There would have to be some wiggle room to get Smith under the cap, but it could be done quite easily.

The Chargers may have beefed up their pass rush and secondary this offseason, but run defense remains a potential issue. In 2021, only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans allowed more rushing yards per game than the 138.9 the Bolts gave up.

Kenneth Murray has never lived up to his first-round draft spot in his two years as a pro. Drue Tranquill is a capable linebacker, but he doesn’t make a difference. Linebacker is clearly the weak point of the Chargers’ new defense — a weakness that the addition of Smith would turn into a strength.

Dallas Cowboys

There are a few year-round constants regarding the Dallas Cowboys. The team begins each season with one goal in mind: to win the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones has never been a little shy to splash either.

Plus, there just happens to be no NFC team that has more space than the $21.6 million the Cowboys have.

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Yes, Dallas already has Defensive Rookie of the Year linebacker Micah Parsons. But even with Parsons on the roster, the Cowboys were just a mediocre run defense — 16th in the league with 112.8 yards allowed per game.

After sustaining numerous injuries, Leighton Vander Esch no longer has the reach he once had. Jabril Cox is a Day 3 pick after an ACL tear. Pairing up Smith and Parsons would give Dallas the most formidable inside linebacker duo in the league — and could potentially shift the balance of power in their favor in the NFC East.

Statistics via Professional Football Reference unless otherwise stated. Information on the salary cap via Above the Cape.

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