The Chicago Bears are going to have to make a decision on linebacker Roquan Smith sooner than later.
After the former first-round pick out of Georgia requested a trade earlier this year, Smith returned to Chicago in what’s shaping up to be a pivotal contract year for him and a bridge year for the Bears.
After Chicago traded pass rusher Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles, Smith was visibly saddened by the trade of the defensive teammate.
It doesn’t seem like Smith, at least for now, has much interest being part of a rebuilding Chicago team that is still trying to see if quarterback Justin Fields can live up to his potential. Investing a lot in a middle linebacker can be tricky for a team like the Bears, which puts his future there in question.
While the Bears could place a hefty franchise tag on Smith after the 2022 season, the team could let him walk and recoup a likely third-round comp pick for 2024.
The Bears could move him ahead of the deadline to a contender, but after just trading Quinn, they might not want to send a message of tanking into a locker room that just defeated the New England Patriots on the road. Moving Smith would do that.
While general manager Ryan Poles maintains his admiration for Smith, he’s going to have to figure out if paying him long-term is in the Bears’ cards. If not, the two could be headed for a breakup.