Discover more from Seaside Joe
The Roquan Smith trade request and the Seahawks' advantages to land him
Seaside Bonus: It's unclear why the Bears haven't extended Smith, but Seattle is an obvious trade partner
John Schneider has probably already made the phone call to Bears GM Ryan Poles and the news of Chicago’s star defensive player requesting a trade has barely reached the starting gate. Given that news like this probably doesn’t reach the media until weeks after its been known in the league, Schneider and Poles most likely already know each other’s positions on any Roquan Smith trade.
Tuesday it just became public knowledge: Smith isn’t happy with the contract extension offers presented by the Bears and the Bears aren’t sold on Smith’s requested contract terms (likely $20 million per season) matching his on-field value with the franchise.
It couldn’t just be that the Bears don’t have the money. They certainly should have the money.
Though Chicago has not yet commented on Smith’s trade request, we know that according to OvertheCap.com, the Bears have the most available cap space in 2023…by roughly $40 million! Similar to the situation in Seattle and the Seahawks’ ability to re-sign DK Metcalf to a top-market deal, years of underwhelming draft classes have left few players worth paying other than Roquan Smith.
Their first round picks going back to 2014 include Kyle Fuller (now with Ravens), Kevin White (trying to make the Saints), Leonard Floyd (just won a Super Bowl with the Rams), Mitchell Trubisky (Steelers), Smith, and Justin Fields.
The Bears are reportedly at odds already with 2021 second round pick Teven Jenkins and Chicago has been in more conversations to pick first in 2023 than they have been talked about as a potential 2022 playoff team.
So if the Seahawks could come to an agreement with Metcalf in the same year as trading Russell Wilson and releasing Bobby Wagner, how could the Bears not satisfy arguably the team’s best first round pick since Brian Urlacher in 2000?
There has been no talk of Smith as a bad teammate, an off-field concern, or showing a lack of effort in practices or games. In fact, Poles praised Smith in the offseason and the team has expressed a desire to sign him long-term, just as Smith made it known he wanted to spend his whole career with the Bears. However, I just checked with my sources up at the North Pole and confirmed that the year is 2022 which means that the current definition of “Loyalty” is:
“Whichever team is willing to pay me the most,” if you’re a player
“As long as you’re a ‘bargain’ for us and/or we’re not tempted with a good trade offer,” if you’re a team
I do not know what is holding back the Bears from signing Smith, nor do I know if Smith (acting as his own agent) is making unreasonable demands. But I do know that the NFL’s version of “loyalty” has led to Wilson, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and many other marquee names being traded this offseason.
I do know that the Seahawks have made trades for players like Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson around this time of year.
I do know that if a reasonable writer with no inside information made a list of the three teams that would be ‘most likely’ to make a serious trade offer to the Chicago Bears for Roquan Smith, the Seattle Seahawks would be on it.
Normally I would not comment on a star player on a different team requesting a trade, but there are enough connections to the Seahawks and enough reason to believe that Seattle would be seriously interested that the possibility of Roquan Smith’s request being picked up by Schneider and Pete Carroll is worth diagnosing. Before I do that, I want to ask you to consider sharing this free bonus article on Seaside Joe.
I am not putting this one in the premium section because I’m hoping that you’ll help me spread it far and wide so we can reach our next subscriber milestone goal before Week 1. Share it on Facebook or Twitter or just forward this e-mail to your Seahawks friends!
What makes the Seahawks a likely contender to trade for Roquan Smith?
The Seattle assistant had worked with Roquan Smith for Smith’s entire career, having been a coach with the Bears from 2013-2021. He was also Smith’s defensive coordinator in 2021 and now he’s the Seahawks associate head coach.
If Smith is a can’t-miss trade acquisition, then Desai would know him as well as anyone. By all accounts, Smith is at least as special as any other trade acquisition in Pete’s history, including Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham, Richardson, Clowney, or Duane Brown.
The eighth overall pick in 2018, Smith has been a top-five inside linebacker since the day he was drafted. He posted five sacks as a rookie (still his career-high, but Smith is good for at least a few per year), has at least one interception in all four seasons, has totaled 30 TFL over the past two years, and he had a career-high 163 tackles in 2021.
Better yet, Roquan Smith is one of the top coverage linebackers in the NFL, a skill that we know Seattle is concerned with when it has come to their inside backers in the last couple of years; according to the “advanced” stats, Smith hasn’t allowed a touchdown pass since his rookie campaign.
He’s also an insanely sure tackler, missing only 3.6% of his many attempts last year, which would make him and Jordyn Brooks an undeniable duo in that regard.
That’s assuming that Brooks wouldn’t be going the other way to Chicago, but it seems more likely that the team would offer Cody Barton as a supplemental replacement. I don’t see the team parting with Brooks at this stage of the game and I do think the Seahawks would see adding Smith as one way to potentially have a top-five defense right now. Which would also include Brooks.
Seaside Joe is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
But the Seahawks aren’t playoff contenders?
I agree that trading for Roquan Smith doesn’t make the Seahawks that much more likely to be good in 2022. However, just like signing Quandre Diggs and Metcalf to three-year contracts this year, I think Seattle is gearing up to have a top-five roster by 2024 at the latest. Smith is only 25 as of April, he would represent a piece of the puzzle towards that goal.
Seattle has the most 2023 draft capital
Trading for Smith would require that Pete and John sacrifice one of their 2023 first round picks. I think given that the Bears are not in an ideal trading position, and Smith is holding-in as he enters the final year of his contract, I don’t believe Chicago can get more for him than what the Chiefs got for Hill and the Packers got or Adams.
I would expect that if the Seahawks were making the offer, Denver’s 2023 first and second round picks would be the asking price.
I know that such a sacrifice would rob us of some fantasies about “What could be possible with four top-50 picks next year” but don’t rob yourself of daydreaming about replacing Bobby Wagner with Roquan Smith. Seattle couldn’t imagine a more ideal transition than that.
Maybe the Seahawks could even spread out the trade pieces for Smith, offering the Broncos’ first round pick next year and their own second round pick in 2024. But rarely do 25-year-olds as good as Roquan Smith change teams, whether it is in trade or free agency. Teams don’t tend to let players like that get away, but when they do, Pete Carroll has always made the phone call to inquire on the cost.
Read more: Seahawks’ secret weapon is Pete Carroll
The Seahawks still have a lot of money to spend
After retaining Metcalf, Diggs, and a few others, Seattle is still left with few contracts to pay out in 2-3 years. The Seahawks have the fifth-most “effective” cap space in 2023 right now, but they will have even more if they part with veterans Gabe Jackson and/or Shelby Harris.
Look at Seattle’s financial commitments in 2025, when Smith will still only be 28, and only Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jamal Adams are veteran position players under contract. And will Lockett really be making $24 million when he’s 33?
I’m not sure why the Bears don’t want to commit $20 million to Roquan Smith when they have nobody else to pay. But if the Seahawks feel that Smith can change the makeup of their defense in the middle like Wagner did for 10 years, then I believe Pete and John could find a way to fit his contract onto the books.
But some question if Roquan Smith is ‘overrated’
Four years ago, PFF’s Sam Monson called Smith “The perfect LB for today’s NFL” and wrote this of his run defense going into the draft:
For a smaller linebacker, it’s not like tackling was a problem and in fact, it may be a real strength of his game. He missed just two tackles in the run game all season for one of the best tackling efficiency scores in the nation, and his tackling technique is actually very impressive most of the time. The agility that comes from his smaller size allows him to mirror the cuts of players with the ball and secure tackles that bigger players would miss. There are several plays on tape where he is able to match an attempted cut back from a ball carrier he is running down and bring him to the turf without losing control as he runs him down. Smith’s fundamentals are excellent in terms of breaking down and keeping control of his own body to avoid being exposed in those situations.
And this of his coverage:
Coverage is why Smith is a top talent in this draft. The last NFL season saw Atlanta’s Deion Jones emerge as one of the game’s best coverage linebackers, and do so in such a way as to hammer home that importance in a sequence of games in which he had one of the defining roles. Jones was able to become a matchup weapon on defense, shutting down players like Carolina TE Greg Olsen and the Rams RB Todd Gurley to give Atlanta’s defense the necessary kryptonite to players that typically prove the difference for their offenses. Smith has that kind of tape at Georgia.
Obviously, Smith isn’t perfect, and you can find plays on tape where he gets beat, just as you can for any other player. The key question is how many are there and how often do they come? Smith’s bad plays are few and far between, and the number of good in between them is what makes him such an excellent prospect. Also, the fact that the negatives don’t appear to present any kind of specific pattern of weaknesses, rather simply represent the bad reps that every player has in his game somewhere.
But as Ian Rapoport noted on Tuesday, PFF is not a fan of Smith as an NFL linebacker:
The perception of Smith seems to vary depending on who you ask. He hasn't earned a Pro Bowl selection from the voting populace, but media members holding All-Pro votes haven't shied from recognizing his performance. Pro Football Focus doesn't hold the same opinion on Smith, whom the website sees as a middling defender, based on his best single-season defensive grade finishing at just 67.2.
It sounds like maybe Poles is an “elite edge member” at PFF and doesn’t want to let his membership go to waste.
Read more: 1,250 straight days of a Seahawks newsletter
Is it possible that Smith is not the type of player worth a first and second round pick and $20 million per year? Yes. Just as it was possible that Harvin, Graham, Richardson, and Clowney were not worth what some in the league perceived them to be worth at the time of those deals too. This article and Seaside Joe itself is less about what I think though and more about what I think the Seahawks are capable of.
This is a FREE bonus post. Consider upgrading to help support a mom-and-pop Seahawks biz
And the Seahawks were capable of trading for all four of those players, and many more that I’ve failed to mention, so I see no reason to argue that Seattle isn’t at least tossing ideas around of how much to offer and what Smith is worth to them.
Is it riskier to add a 25-year-old with a lot of NFL tape that proves he’s worthy of starting in the league and playing at a high level, or holding onto a first round pick that could land in the late 20s and become the next L.J. Collier? That’s probably the question that tends to get Pete and John in trouble sometimes with these trades.
Smith seems to fit a lot of what first-year defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt (the Bears outside linebackers coach two years before Smith was drafted) wants to do in the coming seasons, so I have to think that Pete and John are having that debate once again this morning.
Roquan Smith: Yes or no? Tell me in the comments. And share this with a Seahawks friend!