The Chicago Bears are in a very dangerous position right now.
Chicago is working hard to rebuild its culture under new head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles. That means that a lot of tough decisions — like trading Khalil Mack — have been made over the last several months.
For the most part, though, it seems like Bears players are buying into the new culture.
But all of the progress that Chicago has made this offseason could be erased if Poles doesn’t take the right approach to the Roquan Smith situation.
In case you somehow missed it, Smith publicly requested a trade on Tuesday. The star linebacker cited contract negotiations as his main reasoning for wanting a trade.
Smith also felt disrespected by the offer made by the Bears.
It’s tough to say where the Smith situation will go. This is a new front office in Chicago and we aren’t sure how they’ll handle these types of situations.
For the Bears’ sake, it needs to be handled in a way that ends with Smith staying in Chicago.
The former Georgia standout is one of the Bears’ most important team leaders. And it’s clear that Chicago’s locker room wants Smith to remain in a Bears uniform.
“He’s one of the best players in the NFL,” said offensive tackle Riley Reiff. (via The Athletic). “I’ve played against him how many years now, and just what he brings, the leader, the type of guy he is in the locker room, we want him here.”
Reiff isn’t the only one who feels that way.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson offered a similar sentiment earlier this summer, albeit with more colorful language.
Jaylon Johnson on what the Bears would be missing without Roquan Smith: "Shit, our leader. We all know who Roquan is, what he means for our team. … Somebody has got to step up, somebody has to fill that leadership role, somebody has to call the defense. Somebody has to do it."— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) July 26, 2022
If Poles ends up dealing Smith — which I don’t think will happen but it’s been a crazy offseason so who really knows at this point — it could fracture the locker room.
And that’s the last thing the Bears need.
Fortunately for the Bears, Smith isn’t in a position where he can sit out the whole season. And based on what we’ve seen from him in Chicago, I don’t think he’d even consider sitting out.
I mean, the guy was at practice on Tuesday after requesting the trade. He was out signing autographs for fans instead of hiding. He’s a leader in every sense of the word and I don’t think he’ll bail on his teammates if he fails to receive an extension before the start of the season.
Roquan Smith signing autographs after practice. pic.twitter.com/BGIE95nnx9— Braggs In The Stands (@BraggsInStands) August 9, 2022
Chicago has the leverage — they don’t have to extend Smith yet since he’s under contract through the 2022 season. They also have the option of placing the franchise tag on Smith next spring.
That leverage combined with what we know about Smith is why I think the Bears’ defensive leader will be on the field for Chicago in 2022.
But if for some reason Poles decides that he wants to go in another direction and he trades Smith, then fans should buckle up. If Smith is traded, it could be a rough season that’s worse than anything we saw in 2021.
Featured image via David Banks-USA TODAY Sports