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So, All Pro linebacker Roquan Smith says he wants to be traded

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The opportunity

Well, Washington fans have been waiting for an opportunity to add a quality linebacker to the roster, and today, in Chicago, one of the best young linebackers in the league issued a public statement to Bears fans to tell them he has requested a trade.

To be perfectly honest, I see this as a negotiating tactic by Roquan Smith, who doesn’t have an agent and represents himself; I think he is trying to ratchet up the pressure on the team just days ahead of the start of preseason. In the ‘open letter’ that Roquan Smith issued today, he ended with these words:

I haven’t had the chance to talk to the McCaskey family, and maybe they can salvage this....

That sounds like a young man who is trying to leave the door wide open to a possible resolution.

In my view, the most likely outcome is that the Bears engage in some serious soul-searching over the next 48 hours, and the owners do a bit of relationship mending with Smith, and he has a new deal announced with the McCaskey clan by the weekend that will be accompanied by a press release saying that everyone wants Roquan Smith “to be a Bear for life”.

But, there’s a decent chance that this really does spell the end of the relationship between the 25-year-old linebacker and the team that drafted him. If so, Washington, like most other NFL teams, should be hopping a flight to Chicago tonight to play ‘Let’s make a deal’. After all, the ‘open letter’ sent by Roquan also referenced some of the great Bears linebackers of the past — including Wilbur Marshall, who ended up playing the bulk of his career in Washington, and earning his second Super Bowl ring with the Redskins.

The salary cap cost

If there’s a deal to be made, then the question is: What does the deal need to be?

I looked at Windy City Gridiron, the Bears SB Nation site, to see what they had to say about the contract dollars. The article on the front page suggested that Smith is “likely seeking a deal that would put him in the $17 million per year range”.

A quick look at Over the Cap indicates that this would make Smith probably the 3rd or 4th highest paid linebacker in the NFL along with C.J. Mosely.

Source: Over the Cap

Is Smith worth that kind of money?

Smith has played 4 seasons in the NFL and is a two-time All-Pro (2020-21). He would instantly be the best linebacker that Washington has had in years.

Smith has over 500 tackles in his 4-year career, including 43 tackles for loss. He’s also added one or two interceptions per season during his tenure with da Bears.

Pairing Smith with Cole Holcomb would give the Commanders two young linebackers that could play together for five seasons.

The cost in draft picks and/or players

What would the Commanders need to give up in trade?

Our own Mark Tyler was quick to suggest a Conditional 2nd round pick, or Daron Payne and a 3rd round pick. I’ve seen at least one person suggest that including Jamin Davis in the deal might help get it done, since it would give the Bears an inexpensive young linebacker to replace Smith.

In any event, a high draft pick, or a package that includes a player both sound about right to me.

The risk/reward tradeoff

From the standpoint of draft capital, as long as Carson Wentz works out, using a high draft pick to secure one of the best LBs in the league would be a good use of a 2nd round pick — especially given Washington’s history in the 2nd round. The team will likely have over 50 returning players under contract in 2023, so the core of the team will already be established. Using a ‘23 draft pick to bolster this season and the 5 that follow doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

If Wentz crashes and burns and the team needs to acquire a new quarterback next season, then they could rue the loss of one of their top two 2023 draft picks as they scramble to solve a gaping hole at the game’s most important position.

From a salary cap standpoint, if the Commanders really want to get this done, they can make it happen, but of course, devoting roughly $17m per season to another defensive player would put more stress on the ability to deal with Washington’s own players like Holcomb, Curl, Sweat, and Young, who will all be coming up for contract extensions over the next two seasons.

If the trade eventuates, there will be a lot of teams interested, so this isn’t a deal that’s gonna get done on a lowball offer (to either Smith or the Chicago Bears); it will take a lot of salary cap and substantial trade capital.

Some people may question whether we should pursue an unhappy young man who is trying to force his way off of his current team.

I don’t think this is indicative of a problem-child. Instead, I think it is a result of the difficulty of a player negotiating his own contract extension without an agent. Remember, both Jonathan Allen and Terry McLaurin have talked about how difficult it was to go through the process, and how each found it challenging not to take the negotiations personally. I suspect it is the process that is grinding Roquan Smith up at the moment, and that he would be motivated to join a team that spent resources on him and made him feel wanted — something we’ve heard many players talk about.


Should the Commanders aggressively pursue a trade for Roquan Smith that would pay him ~$17m per year and send a high draft pick (and maybe a player) to the Bears?

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