Bears GM Ryan Poles is disappointed that Roquan Smith wants a trade. Can he fix the situation?
Instead of a fun-loving Family Day at Soldier Field on Tuesday, the Bears received the equivalent of divorce papers from Roquan Smith.
Acting as his own agent and trying to negotiate a lucrative contract extension, the linebacker requested a trade in a letter he sent to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
"The new front office regime doesn't value me here," Smith wrote. "They've refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of this journey has been 'take it or leave it'. The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself, and for the entire LB market if I signed it. ...
"I wanted to be a Bear for my entire career, help this team bring a (Super Bowl) back to our city. However, they have left me no choice than to request a trade that allows me to play for an organization that truly values what I bring to the table."
The hard-hitting message felt like a gut punch to general manager Ryan Poles, who addressed the media at Soldier Field shortly after practice ended.
"I love the kid (and) love what he's done on the field -- which makes me really disappointed with (where) we're at right now," Poles said. "I thought we would be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you. ...
"With this situation we've showed respect from a very early time frame. There's record-setting pieces of this contract that I ... thought was gonna show him the respect he deserves. Obviously that hasn't been the case."
Poles added that he intends to "sign Roquan to this team."
But here's the thing: Smith IS ALREADY SIGNED TO THE TEAM.
So how, exactly, should Poles proceed?
Should he acquiesce, bow to Smith's request and move him for draft picks and/or promising young players? Should he sweeten the offer? Or should he hold firm and play hardball?
Smith is among the best LBs in the game and definitely due a huge raise over the $9.7 million he's set to make in the final year of his rookie contract.
Poles' offer, according to Rapoport, includes "de-escalators that not a single player out of the 94 non-QB, $15M (plus) contracts has."
Trading Smith -- who did some light exercises on the sideline Tuesday -- is definitely an option, especially since the Bears aren't expected to be very good. Drafting in the top 5 for two straight years would yield a pair of difference makers who, theoretically, could turn coach Matt Eberflus' squad into a force in the NFC North.
Add a couple draft picks (maybe a second and a fourth) and you continue to build from the ground up.
But what if a few teams make lowball offers that make no sense?
In that case, the Bears should just stand pat.
Take Smith off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Tell him to start practicing. Fine him if he doesn't.
When the regular season arrives he'll either play or forfeit game checks.
This obviously isn't the ideal route, but it might be the best option.
If Poles opts for the hardball route, they ought to tell Smith this: "Roquan -- we are sorry that you felt you had to go to social media to vent your frustrations over this situation. We have made you an offer. We feel it is fair and representative of your market value. If you don't agree, that is completely understandable. But you are under contract, so we will soon be taking you off the PUP list and look forward to seeing you on the practice field."
Remember also that the Bears can franchise tag Smith in 2023, 2024 AND 2025. (The third year is extremely unlikely, though).
So Poles holds all the cards -- and is well within his right to call Smith's bluff.