Roquan Smith

Could the Bears land a first-round pick for Roquan Smith?

Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is ‘holding in’ at Bears training camp while he continues negotiating terms on a lucrative new contract. The negotiations took an unexpected turn for the worse Tuesday when Smith, through NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, shared his displeasure with the Bears’ latest proposal on Twitter. He formally requested a trade.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles, to his credit, addressed the media in response to Roquan Smith’s trade demand. He said it’s his intention to keep Smith in a Bears uniform but tempered expectations by making it clear he will put the team’s best interest first.

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Simply put, this is a mess. Smith wants a new contract that will pay him north of $20 million per season, but the positional value attached to inside linebackers makes that a tough pill to swallow. The Bears, while salary-cap rich in 2023, have holes to fill at costly positions next offseason. We could be headed for an unfortunate reality where Roquan Smith is traded despite his status as arguably Chicago’s best all-around football player.

What, then, could Poles get in return for Smith on the trade market? According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, a first-round pick isn’t out of the question.

Rapoport offered two recent trades as comps for a potential Smith swap: Laremy Tunsil and Tyreek Hill. I’d offer a different trade comp for your consideration: Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The Miami Dolphins traded Fitzpatrick and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in September 2019 for a first- and fifth-round pick in 2020 and a sixth-round pick in 2021. The Fitzpatrick trade wasn’t over a contract dispute; instead, it was more of a clash between him and the Dolphins organization. But he, too, played a position that is devalued by NFL draft and contract standards yet still netted a first-round pick in return. If trading him could land that kind of draft capital, surely a Smith deal could, too.

At the end of the day, is it worth it? The Dolphins ended up with offensive lineman Austin Jackson, defensive tackle Jason Strowbridge, and running back DeAndre Washington from those draft picks. Sure, draft picks are exciting and offer hope. But they’re also unpredictable assets that fail more often than not.

Roquan Smith is the best first-round pick the Chicago Bears have made in two decades. That’s not a typo. To think the Bears can replace him with a high draft pick is ignoring this team’s history. And when history is ignored, it’s doomed to be repeated.

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Feature image: Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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