Fans of the Chicago Bears woke up to less than encouraging news on Tuesday morning. Amidst a holdout for a new contract, star linebacker Roquan Smith has requested a trade. Now, there is always a chance that the Bears work things out with Smith and ultimately get an extension done. However, even if that is the case, this development from Smith and his camp only adds a blemish to the new regime's record.
Finding talent in any sport is difficult. Top picks will not pan out at times, late picks will come through and be major pieces of a team, and so on. It's truly not a science when it comes to identifying talent. In the Bears' case, Roquan Smith has become exactly what you expect from a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. For the new regime, he is exactly the type of player a defense can be built around. However, per Smith's comments, the regime appears to not see his value.
Valuing Smith is a fairly easy task. Benchmark his stats against the top linebackers in the league and you'll see where he fits. However, this isn't necessarily about the actual dollars. This appears to be more about the Bears' tactics for negotiation.
In fairness, it is the front office's job to negotiate and manage the cap in a correct manner. The Bears are slotted to have an insane amount of cap space next season, making a Roquan extension extremely feasible. That said, Ryan Poles likely has a plan, and getting Smith at the right number is a part of that. Once again, that's now where my concern lies.
The Reputation of the Bears
Speaking of that cap space, the Chicago Bears will likely be buyers during free agency next season. However, if this stain creates a reputation that the Bears' front office does not negotiate in good faith or is presenting "take it or leave it" deals, then maybe they won't be as big of buyers if free agents aren't as excited about joining the team.
This is the problem. It's not that Roquan Smith wants to get paid or that the front office is "negotiating," but rather it's the manner in which they've gone about it. Playing hardball is one thing. Giving a player who's arguably the current face of the franchise the perception that you don't care is another thing. Players keep tabs on what is going on around the league. In this case, players are seeing the statement from Smith and taking mental notes for the future.
Again, the Bears and Smith may still get a deal done. However, these developments will create a stain on the front office's record and it could impact future negotiations with players on the free-agent market and those already on the roster.