CHICAGO– Bear linebacker Roquan-Smith said in a written statement that he requested a trade after contract negotiations between him and the organization reached an impasse.
Smith wrote a statement which was posted on social media by NFL Network tuesday. ESPN confirmed the validity of these messages.
The linebacker wrote that “the new front office regime doesn’t like me here,” after Smith said he had been trying to work on an extension since April.
“They refused to negotiate in good faith,” Smith wrote. “Every step of this journey has been ‘take it or leave it’. The deal that was sent to me is one that would be bad for me, and the whole LB market if I signed it.”
Chicago general manager Ryan Poles responded to Smith’s trade request after the team’s practice at Soldier Field on Tuesday morning. Poles said his intention was still to work on signing Smith for an extension and that the front office “is doing everything in its power to get that done.”
“I’ll double what I said before – my feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” Poles said. “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he’s done on the pitch which makes me really disappointed with the current situation. I thought we would be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you.
“In terms of our front office philosophy, I have always believed and will always believe that we take care of our local talent. We pay them, we take care of them and we take everyone for what they have done. and what he did. they can become in the future. And with this situation, we showed respect from the beginning and that said, there are record elements of this contract that I thought were going to him show the respect it deserves, and it clearly hasn’t.
“Having said that, we can’t lose sight that this isn’t just one player. My job is to build a roster that’s going to sustain success for a long time. At the end of the day, we have to do best for the Chicago Bears.”
Since the Bears drafted him eighth overall in 2018, the former Georgia star has 14 sacks while recording at least 101 tackles and one interception in every season he has played. Smith is expected to earn $9.7 million in the final year of his rookie contract and was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list when he reported to camp in late July.
Smith, 25, accused the Bears front office of “trying to take advantage of me” and said the organization “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.”
The weakside linebacker position that Smith is expected to occupy as the Bears go from a 3-4 base to 4-3 is crucial to coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. Eberflus has had stalwarts in the role throughout his career, from Sean Lee in Dallas to Shaquille Leonard in Indianapolis, the latter of whom signed a five-year contract worth $98.5 million last year. offseason that made him the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL.
When asked if he had expressed to the front office the importance of having Smith in the fold, Eberflus pointed to the weight the position carries in this scheme.
“It’s documented in the defense, that’s the position, isn’t it?” said Eberflus. “It’s one of the positions, the one, technique 3, outside pass-rushers, nickel. Those guys are all really important to us, and that position of Will is a cog in that.”
Eberflus said he spoke with Smith almost every day while the linebacker was on the PUP list. Smith was in attendance Tuesday at Soldier Field for “Family Day” practice despite asking for his trade hours before. The linebacker performed rehabilitation drills on the sidelines and chatted with his teammates.
In April, Smith expressed confidence that he would stay in Chicago long-term under a new contract and was a full participant in voluntary practices and the mandatory minicamp. The linebacker said he wanted to be with the Bears his entire career.
The Poles have expressed the same belief this offseason, saying the Bears are prioritizing an extension to keep Smith in Chicago.
“When we committed and brought it, we brought it,” the general manager said. “And I thought there was a lot of respect where we are at the moment. But obviously it’s not good enough for him and his party. But I feel like we showed respect and showed value for who he is as a football player and what he can become.”
Smith is one of a handful of notable NFL players without an agent, which comes with a unique set of challenges for the Bears front office.
“It’s difficult,” said Poles. “There are emotions involved and it’s difficult. It’s a very unique situation that we had to deal with and I think we did a good job, which is why I’m a little disappointed that we’re at this location. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”
At the end of his statement, Smith apologized to Bears fans while expressing little faith that the negotiations would backfire.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to the McCaskey family, and maybe they can salvage this, but right now I don’t see a path to the organization that I truly love,” he said. said Smith.