If Ryan Poles has made one thing clear during his short time as the general manager of the Chicago Bears, it’s that he never wants to spend more than he thinks a player is worth. But, when it comes to Roquan Smith, getting him signed should be a no-brainer.
Smith is the best player on the Bears roster, without question. He is also unquestionably one of the five best linebackers in the entire league and a perfect fit for what the head coach Poles hired wants to do.
It is hard to see where the disconnect is. Good players cost money and Smith is a really, really good player.
There really isn’t anything more Smith could do to earn a monster contract. He had 163 tackles, three sacks and a pick-six last year. He has recorded at least 100 tackles, two sacks and one interception every year in his career. If he isn’t as good as Shaq Leonard (formerly known as Darius Leonard) he is so close that paying them equally would be justified. He’s certainly at least as good as Fred Warner, who just signed a five-year $95 Million deal with San Francisco.
Whatever contract Smith signs, it will be a bargain in two years when players like Devin White, Don’t’a Hightower and Tremaine Edmunds all get their new deals. Allowing any of them to get done before Smith would cost the team more money in the long run.
Poles seems to get stuck on valuing players at a certain price and refusing to budge. The best GMs do budge on occasion, however, and Smith is the kind of player worth making an exception for.
The deal will probably get done and Smith will be among the highest-paid linebackers in the league. The fact that it has gotten to the point where he has asked for a trade is a bad look for Poles and the Bears. Smith is a young, productive players who puts in the work. He is the kind of player teams should want to keep and not strictly at a discount price.
It’s hard to see Smith as being as valuable to other teams as he is to the Bears. This is a defensive scheme that requires standouts at his position. It’s especially hard to see a team being willing to trade equal value for Smith at this point, though the Khalil Mack trade taught us that Poles is willing to take less trade value in order to save money.
Poles’ intentional frugality will almost certainly cost the team wins in 2022; they really couldn’t have spent a few million on a starting right guard? But the Phil Emery era taught us that once management loses a locker room, it’s extremely difficult to get back. If players don’t think they will be rewarded for putting hard work in, they won’t want to stick around. Like Aaron Rodgers said about management in Green Bay, how you treat players matters. Poles can’t come off as looking like he doesn’t appreciate players, especially ones like Smith who has a rare combination of talent and work ethic.