Roquan Smith, who is arguably the best player on the entire Chicago Bears roster, may eventually be on the move after he requested a trade, but the NFL warned other franchises not to tamper with the linebacker since he is still under contract with the NFC North team.
"Tampering is a corrosive problem that undermines both the integrity of the game and relationships among clubs," the NFL Management Council said in a memo it sent to the league's teams, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. "Accordingly, in the event that tampering is found, the Competition Committee has recommended the imposition of more stringent discipline than … imposed in prior years."
Courtney Cronin of ESPN added that the memo noted Saint Omni, a non-NFLPA-certified agent, had been contacting teams on Smith's behalf.
The 2022 season is set to be the final one on Smith's contract, and he and the Bears have been unable to come to terms on a new agreement.
He said in his trade request that Chicago "refused to negotiate in good faith" and has instead focused on "trying to take advantage of me."
While Smith started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, perhaps in part so he wouldn't be fined as the two sides negotiated a new deal, the team removed him from the list following the trade request.
That means the Bears could punish him for missing practices as the 2022 campaign approaches.
First-year general manager Ryan Poles spoke to reporters about the situation and said he was "really disappointed with where we're at right now" even though "my intentions are to make sure Roquan is on this team."
That other teams would be interested comes as no surprise considering Smith is in the middle of his prime at 25 years old and coming off a season that saw him tally 163 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, three passes defended and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
Yet the league's crackdown on tampering has made headlines this offseason with the NFL docking the Miami Dolphins their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft and third-round pick in the 2024 draft.
It also fined owner Stephen Ross $1.5 million and suspended him through Oct. 17 after an investigation revealed Miami had impermissible contact with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady when he was under contract with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Dolphins also contacted Sean Payton's agent when he was still the head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
The NFL seems to be serious about punishing tampering and used the Smith situation as an opportunity to remind teams.