Bears linebacker Roquan Smith has requested a trade from Chicago after he feels the team’s new front office doesn’t recognize his worth.
With that, let the trade predictions begin.
Smith, 25, is in the final year of his rookie deal. He was owed a base salary of $9.74 million in 2022, a not inconsiderable amount of money whose resulting cap would be reduced should the trading team sign him for an extension.
Considering Smith reportedly turned down a backloaded deal in Chicago, it stands to reason that any team looking to trade for the linebacker will extend him in a deal they believe accurately reflects his value .
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A second-team All-Pro for each of the past two seasons, Smith is coming off a 2021 season in which he had 163 combined tackles, 12 for losses, three sacks, one interception and three passes defended. He had more than 100 combined tackles in each of his four years in the league.
All that to say: He’s a valuable trade target, especially for teams with cap space and aspirations to make a Super Bowl run this season. (It’s also worth noting that the bears are in dire need of recipients.)
With that, The Sporting News looks at potential trade targets for the fifth-year linebacker:
Roquan Smith landing sites
Seattle is in the midst of a rebuild and has both the cap space — $13.8 million — and draft capital to close a deal for the Bears linebacker. That includes two first- and second-round picks in 2023, the result of trading quarterback Russell Wilson to the Broncos.
It’s worth noting that the Seahawks also have former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai as their assistant head coach and defensive assistant. This reunion could make Seattle an intriguing option.
Seattle also cut an aging Bobby Wagner ahead of the 2022 season, the third year of a $54 million deal. That leaves Smith plenty of room to step in and take over immediately in the beginning linebacker rotation.
Or the Seahawks could try one of the linebackers in the 2023 draft class, as opposed to a proven commodity in Smith.
Speaking of Denver, Smith would make a great addition to the Broncos’ linebacker corps and provide an instant upgrade over insiders like Josey Jewell and Jonas Griffith.
He would join a defensive unit that includes Bradley Chubb on the front end and Patrick Surtain II on the defensive secondary, among others. That grouping, coupled with the addition of Wilson as quarterback, could create a Super Bowl run in 2022.
The question is: what could the Broncos trade for him? They already gave up significant draft capital and several players — quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, and defensive lineman Shelby Harris — for Wilson. The team is likely to part ways with each of its established players, particularly at receiver — an area of need for Chicago.
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Las Vegas robbers
Keeping with the AFC West theme, the Raiders — who have the second-highest cap streak of any team in the NFL at $23.6 million — could make a run for Smith.
Las Vegas has already made splashes for Davante Adams in trading its first- and second-round draft picks in 2022. The team also added pass rusher Chandler Jones to pair with Maxx Crosby. Adding a sideline-to-sideline linebacker like Smith could make the Raiders’ defense one of the more dangerous units in the league — especially important in a division that includes Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Wilson as quarterbacks.
This could also work in Las Vegas’ favor if the team strays from Josh Jacobs, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher the team has reportedly been considering. Adding the former Alabama running back on a deal for Smith could ease the blow in terms of draft capital, while the Bears take a 2-1 blow running back alongside David Montgomery.
Chargers from Los Angeles
Hey, another AFC West team. The Chargers have already taken on Chicago this offseason, sending a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick for All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack.
Adding Smith to that defense alongside Mack and Joey Bosa would make for a potentially terrible front seven in LA. Smith’s linebacker position isn’t as valuable as Mack’s, but he’s also a two-time second-team All-Pro.
Where it suited the team, Smith could step in immediately; Drue Tranquill is a solid starter, but former first-round pick Kenneth Murray had a disappointing 2021 season after a solid rookie campaign. He missed seven games in 2021 with an ankle injury and has started training camp on the PUP list while in rehab.
The Chargers could make that deal with a Super Bowl run in mind, and Justin Herbert still has a cheap rookie deal. Now, if you take that move with a player who isn’t nearly as priced as other positions, it would lower LA’s cap, which has roughly $14 million available.
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Could Miami continue its offseason of big-name acquisitions by trading for Smith? The biggest additions to the Dolphins came on offense, where Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead and a host of running backs dominated the headlines.
Smith would make an excellent tandem with Melvin Ingram, who Miami signed as a free agency. This pairing, along with Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis up front and Jevon Holland and Xavien Howard in secondary, would give the team playmakers at all levels.
A potential issue is the loss of a first-round draft pick by Stephen Ross, who rigged Tom Brady. Miami still has the 49ers’ draft picks to use in a trade, but the team has clearly been trying to maintain their draft picks if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fails to come up in 2022.
Trading in San Francisco’s pick would be a huge vote of confidence for Tagovailoa, but would also leave the team without bargaining power ahead of the draft should the team decide to pull away from him.
The Dolphins could potentially soften that blow by trading a second-round pick to Chicago alongside receivers Preston Williams and Lynn Bowden Jr.
The Bears are in desperate need of receivers after injuries to N’Keal Harry and Byron Pringle – and possibly David Moore. They could try to shore up the receiving corps around Justin Fields before a full rebuild.