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Roquan explains decision to make 'emotional' trade request

August 21, 2022

LAKE FOREST – Roquan Smith surprised everyone on Aug. 9 when he dropped a trade request hours before the Bears were set to host Family Fest at Soldier Field.

After being a hold-in at training camp for the past nine days, the 25-year-old linebacker returned to practice Saturday at Halas Hall following what he called a “distasteful” contract process with the Bears. That process ended without resolution. Smith plans to play out the final year of his contract and let the chips fall where they may after the season.

Smith spoke with the media for the first time since his trade request and decision to hold-in Saturday, following a light practice that was the start of his “ramp-up” phase.

That trade request, a 300-word letter that deemed general manager Ryan Poles’ negotiations disrespectful and asked for ownership to step in, is unique in the NFL. Many players request trades, but few do it in such a manner.

“Yeah, it was very emotional for me because normally I tend to not voice my opinion as much, but I thought it was time for me to do that,” Smith said of his trade request. “And there was a lot of different things going on out there. A lot of different speculating and like things of that nature, and I just wanted the fans to know and the great city of Chicago to know like what was really going on since no one really knew. A lot of people was kind of caught in a blind, so I just wanted that to be known.”

Smith claims the trade request was just him trying to “express what was best for me and my future.”
While Smith’s request might have initially sent a shock through the Bears’ front office, Poles didn’t budge, and now Smith returns to the field hoping a big season will set him up for the huge payday he was hoping to get from the Bears.

“Well, that was declined, so I think my focus has to shift,” Smith said when asked if he still wanted to get traded. “I have contract to fulfill and I’m just going to go out there and be the best teammate I can be, best guy in the locker room I can be to those guys and that’s my focus and, hey, I’m going to do it the same way I’ve always done it: 100 miles an hour and won’t let up.”

Smith is set to make .7 million this season. He wouldn’t reveal how much he was asking for in his contract negotiations but did admit it was an amount that would make him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL.

According to Smith, he and the Bears never got far down the extension road. That stalemate ended with Smith returning Saturday and agreeing to take the field in the crucial WILL linebacker spot in head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense.

“Well, obviously the talks didn’t get too far,” Smith said. “And it didn’t end in the way that I wanted them to end. And it’s basically like, hey, I know at the end of the year, it’s going to be a big season for myself. And also, at the end of the season, there’s a lot of different directions things could go, so I know I need to put myself and my body in the best possible situation to succeed and I feel like with this time that I have it’ll be enough time for me to prepare myself for the season.”

The Bears could franchise tag Smith after the season. They also could let him walk. Smith said he isn’t expecting negotiations to pick back up, but there’s still the possibility that a contract extension gets done once heads cool off.

The one thing that appears was never in the cards was a trade.

Standoff over, Smith and the Bears can now try and move forward to make the start of their on-field partnership a success. Whether or not either plans to be part of the other’s long-term future remains unknown.

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