Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, who has requested a trade after long-term contract negotiations between he and the team broke down, told reporters Wednesday (h/t Courtney Cronin of ESPN) that he's focused on making the 2022 season as good as possible.
"I’m not focused on that, if I’m being completely honest," Smith said when asked if he hopes to agree to a long-term deal with the Bears.
"My focus is on making this year the best year I can and then go from there. I don’t want to look forward too much to the future or anything like that. I’m just focused on having the best year I can with my teammates and going out and playing the game I love. That’s what means the most to me."
Smith is entering the final year of his rookie contract after the Bears exercised his fifth-year option. The former Georgia star amassed a career-high 163 tackles last year.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported on The Pat McAfee Show that the Bears' contract offer to Leonard was backloaded.
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"It's, like, way backloaded," Rapoport said. "The last year has a high number and it makes the average high, but it's not real. There's a couple of things they'd asked him to do in the deal that he does not want to do."
Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago speculated that Smith is looking for a deal worth more than Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard's recent extension.
"The speculation about his contract suspects Smith is aiming to be the highest paid linebacker in the NFL. Shaquille Leonard, from Matt Eberflus' previous team, inked a five-year deal worth $98.5 million. Seeing that, Smith likely wants to break the $100 million mark with his sights on $20 million per year over five years."
Smith had a "hold-in" of sorts at training camp, starting it on the PUP list and sitting out an additional 10 days after being activated off it. He began practicing Aug. 20 and spoke with reporters upon his return.
"I'm just shifting my focus to the season and more so just focused on being the best teammate I can be to those guys in the locker room. It's my last year of my deal, and hey, I'm just going to take it, run with it, bet on myself like I've always done, and the negotiations are over right now."
Smith's bet on himself will begin on Sunday, Sept. 11, when his Bears host the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.