Bears Rumors: Roquan Smith Top-Paid LB Offer 'Not Real'; Contract 'Way Backloaded'

Erin WalshAugust 11, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58) looks on during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on December 20, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Bears are interested in making Roquan Smith the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, but their latest offer to the inside linebacker is considered "not a real highest-paid offer" and is "way backloaded," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Rapoport said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show:

"They could make him the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, which my understanding is their offer is, you know, is there. But it's not real, it's not a real highest-paid offer. ... It's like way backloaded, so like, you know, the last year has a high number and it makes the average high but it's not real. There's a couple things they've asked him to do in the deal that he does not want do."

Rapoport reported Wednesday that Chicago's "backloaded" offer to Smith "wouldn't make him the highest paid in actual salary" and included "proposed de-escalators that not a single player out of the 94 non-QB, $15 million-plus contracts has."

Smith requested a trade from the Bears this week after contract negotiations between himself and the organization hit a wall. The 25-year-old wrote in a statement shared by Rapoport that he believes the franchise's front office "doesn't value me here" and has "refused to negotiate in good faith."

Smith added: "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."

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bears?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bears</a> All-Pro LB Roquan Smith has requested a trade. <a href="https://t.co/x4vmOMhROt">pic.twitter.com/x4vmOMhROt</a>

Rapoport reported on 670 The Score this week that Smith asked the Bears for more money than Indianapolis Colts star Shaquille Leonard, who signed a five-year, $98.5 million deal with the franchise in August 2021.

The deal made Leonard the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL. In his four seasons with the Colts, he has posted 15 sacks, 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, and 538 tackles in 58 games.

Leonard also won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, is a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.

Despite Smith's trade request, Bears general manager Ryan Poles told reporters earlier this week that the front office is still trying to negotiate a new deal for the veteran linebacker:

"I'll double down on what I've said before โ€” my feelings for Roquan haven't changed at all. I think he's a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he's done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we're at right now. I thought we'd be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you.

"In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I've always believed and always will that we take care of our homegrown talent. We pay them, we take care of them, and we take everyone for what they've done and what they can become in the future. And with this situation, we've showed respect from a very early timeframe and with that said, there's record-setting pieces of this contract that I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves, and obviously that hasn't been the case."

The Bears selected Smith eighth overall in the 2018 NFL draft out of Georgia. In his four seasons with the Bears, he has posted 14 sacks, five interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 524 tackles in 61 games.

He enters the 2022 campaign coming off a solid 2021 season in which he posted three sacks, one interception and 163 tackles.

If the Bears and Smith cannot agree to terms on an extension, he'll become an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season.