Linebacker Roquan Smith has requested a trade away from the Chicago Bears on Tuesday over a contract dispute with the Bears new front office personnel. Smith said Tuesday that the front office regime “doesn’t value me here” and that “they’ve refused to negotiate in good faith.”
Smith has been a part of the Bears organization since being drafted 8th overall in 2018. From the time of being drafted, Smith has been a cornerstone of the Bears defense, racking up a total of 524 tackles, 14 sacks, five interceptions, and 17 pass deflections during his tenure with the Bears. The 2020 and 2021 Second-team All-Pro linebacker is seeking more money than $9.7 million per year, which is the amount remaining on the last year of his rookie contract. A linebacker of Smith’s caliber should command an annual salary of $16 to $19 million, instead of continuing to play on a rookie deal that no longer represents Smith’s value to a defense.
There are three teams that are expected to make a move for Smith that have a need for a middle linebacker and enough cap space to give Smith the contract he desires.
The first team that falls under the criteria to acquire Smith are the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have $20.25 million left in cap space and have an up and coming talented defensive unit that is becoming the identity of the team by only allowing 305 yards per game last year (second best in the league). Smith would be joining a defense loaded with young playmakers like Shaq Thompson, Jaycee Horn, Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn, and Derrick Brown. The addition of Smith at middle linebacker would establish the Panthers as a defensive powerhouse for years to come.
Another team that is likely to be eyeing Smith’s trade request are the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have the third highest cap room left in the league, right above the Panthers, with $20.27 million. The Dolphins have poured a lot of money into their offense this offseason, but still have money left over to also improve their defense. Miami’s defense has a glaring hole at the inside linebacker position that are currently slated to be played by Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker, who are inferior to Smith. A tackle machine and playmaker like Smith would bolster Miami’s defense, which is much needed in a division with athletic Bills Quarterback Josh Allen.
Last but not least are the Cleveland Browns. The Browns defensive unit seems to improve year after year, led by elite pass rusher Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward. By incorporating Smith into their defense, they would have defensive playmakers in every level of the defense putting the competitive AFC North division on watch. With Garrett wreaking havoc on the defensive line, Smith patrolling the middle, and Ward in the backfield, the Browns defense would be formidable. That dangerous trio would be considered one of the best in the league, competing with the Rams’ Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey defensive trio. Not to mention, the Browns have the ability to outbid every team to potentially make an offer for Smith with a whopping $47 million in cap space.