Saturday, August 6, 2022

Bears get more bad news involving star LB Roquan Smith

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The Chicago Bears are dealing with a number of issues with a handful of their top players, and the situation with a young cornerstone defenseman seems only to get worse.

Albert Breer from Sports Illustrated appeared in the Monday, August 1 edition of NBC Sports Chicago’s Unfiltered with David Kaplan to provide an update on the contract negotiations between the Bears and their second-team All Pro linebacker Roquan Smith. The news offered by Breer was not encouraging.

“I think they definitely have a long way to go when it comes to a long-term deal,” Breer said.

He added that Smith isn’t the prototypical type of linebacker that new Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus favors as the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator because Smith has the athleticism but not the size of players like Darius Leonard.

“Roquan [Smith] is a departure from that,” Breer explained. “It will be interesting to see where [the Bears] Score it against its league-wide value.

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Kaplan pointed out that the linebacker will be forced to play in the final year of his rookie contract this season even if Smith is unable to reach an agreement with the team so he can achieve the required NFL service time needed to reaching full free agency comes in the spring of 2023. Smith will be making just over $9.7 million in his fifth NFL season, per Spotrac.

Smith is currently on the PUP list, which is short for “physically unfit,” and is not attending training camp. However, Kaplan on Monday voiced a common notion circulating in Chicago that Smith is acting as a “bus stop” at training camp. Heading into the preseason, Smith was scheduled to sit out camp if overtime could not be achieved.

Eberflus said during a July 27 media session that Smith was indeed suffering from an injury and took the opportunity in front of the cameras to play up the relationship between the franchise and its star linebacker.

“He’s in a good place,” said Eberflus. “He’s really in a good place. We had a great chat with him about where he is. He’s focused. He’s in meetings and he’s wired that way. He’s on PUP right now so he can’t go out and practice, but he’s wired.

Smith has played in 61 out of a possible 65 games for the Bears over his four-year career and started 59 of them. The linebacker recorded 163 tackles last season, including 12 tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, three sacks, three passes defended and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown, according to the Pro Football Reference.

With Chicago holding all the cards for the coming year, the Bears must tread carefully not to alienate Smith to the point that they are either forced to trade him mid-season or risk to see him run for free as a free hand Hits in 2023.

The Bears are also struggling to maintain a good working relationship with offensive lineman Teven Jenkins. Chicago selected Jenkins in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but the front office and touchline lead has changed since then.

Jenkins reportedly missed several exercises and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Monday that the team is now processing trade requests for the 24-year-old tackle. Breer also spoke to Kaplan Monday about Jenkins’ situation.

“[Chicago] Drafted a couple of offensive linemen … and I think that’s a big part of that,” Breer said. “In this case I think so [general manager] Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus give the squad a cold, hard look. And those guys also had their own take on guys like [Jenkins] go back to [the] Kansas City [Chiefs] and Indianapolis.”

“I just think it’s one of those things where there’s a different staff, a different scheme and obviously a different level of investment in the players that are in the house,” Breer continued.

The Bears are also attempting to move away before the start of the regular season through a trade from pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn finished second in the NFL in QB sacks last year with 18.5, but he’s also carrying a more than $17 million salary cap hit for a team that’s not expected to compete in any meaningful way in 2022 becomes.

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