Roquan Smith's time with the Chicago Bears may soon be coming to an end. The All-Pro linebacker out of the organization on Monday due to a lack of productive contract talks. Smith is entering the final year of his deal and noted that the Bears "new front office regime doesn't value me." The 25-year-old also said the organization has not been negotiating in good faith to this point and triggered his trade request.
With Smith now on the block, our attention turns to where he may be suiting up next in the NFL. Whatever team acquires Smith would be getting one of the best, young off-ball linebackers in the league. He is one of just six players in league history to have 500 or more tackles, 10-plus sacks, and five or more interceptions in his first four seasons. With that in mind, he should have plenty of suitors.
Below, we highlighted a handful of destinations that could make sense for Smith as he embarks on a new chapter of his career.
Jerry Jones is never afraid to make a big splash, so we can never count the Cowboys out when a player of Smith's caliber goes on the block. Leighton Vander Esch re-signed with Dallas this offseason on a one-year, $2 million deal, so they aren't committed to the former first-round pick long-term despite him currently sitting atop the depth chart at the middle linebacker spot. Vander Esch has also had durability problems throughout his career, so this is very much an area the Cowboys could look to improve upon as they head into a 2022 campaign where expectations are sky high.
Inserting a player of Smith's caliber could also free up superstar linebacker Micah Parsons and have him spend more time coming off the edge as a pass rusher, thus raising the overall ceiling of Dallas' defense.
Not only that but creating a young core that consists of Parsons, Smith, and cornerback Trevon Diggs could be pillars of the Cowboys defense for the next decade.
The Dolphins were one of the teams that cannon-balled into the offseason and made several blockbuster moves, including the signing of star tackle Terron Armstead and trading for wideout Tyreek Hill. Most of those big additions were made on the offensive side of the ball, but they could use a major addition on defense as well, particularly at inside linebacker. Currently, Elandon Roberts and Jerome Baker are headlining that group, and Smith would be a clear upgrade for either one, although he'd likely slot in over Roberts and be paired with Baker.
Smith would fit in nicely with a Miami defense that has budding stars like defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and a secondary that consists of safety Jevon Holland along with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones (currently on PUP).
Miami is clearly trying to compete as early as this season if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can fully tap into his first-round potential and the addition of Smith on defense would help them in that quest as they take on a highly competitive AFC.
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The Patriots have a number of questions on the offensive side of the ball -- mainly how they'll function in the departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels -- but don't sleep on the need at linebacker either. It's been a rather transformative offseason at that position with the club moving on from Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins, who were all once pillars to Super Bowl rosters.
Now, Ja'Whaun Bentley is slated to be the starting middle linebacker and there's not much depth behind him. As we enter the third week of training camp, linebacker Cameron McGrone has been working on the scout team, and Jahlani Tavai was dealing with a right leg injury before returning to practice Monday. Neither of those two instill much confidence at this stage and Smith could be the type of addition that Bill Belichick deems to be not only worth it considering the linebacker's age and talent, but necessary.
However, New England is currently backed up against the salary cap, so they'd need to do some serious gymnastics to make a Smith trade work.
The off-ball linebacker spot is one of the weaker areas on Denver's roster, so Smith would be a logical addition for a team that loaded up this offseason by trading for Russell Wilson and is poised to make a Super Bowl run. Alexander Johnson began the year as Denver's starting inside linebacker before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 6. He's still a free agent, so it doesn't seem like the Broncos have much interest in a reunion, leaving Jonas Griffith and Josey Jewell as its top two inside linebackers.
Smith would immediately jump above both of them on the depth chart and could be the final piece on defense to put them over the top. Smith in the middle of the defense with Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory coming off the edge, while the likes of corner Patrick Surtain II and safety Justin Simmons lurking in the secondary would make this a scary defense on a weekly basis.
That said, Denver would need to clear some salary cap space to create room for Smith, and there's the question of whether or not they have the assets to actually acquire him after dealing with Wilson.
While many may be overlooking Baltimore heading into 2022 due to the 8-9 campaign from a year ago, that was largely due to the onslaught of injuries they faced. Now that they're back to full strength across the roster, this is a dark-horse team that could make some serious noise in the AFC. Offensively, they have an MVP-caliber quarterback in Lamar Jackson, and boast plenty of star power on defense, but are a bit thin at middle linebacker.
32-year-old Josh Bynes is currently in line to be the team's starting middle linebacker after starting 12 games for them last year and re-signing with the club this offseason. Smith not only would be an instant upgrade, but he'd be an answer for them for the foreseeable future.
As an aside, Smith could also pick up the mantle left by Ray Lewis and be Baltimore's next great middle linebacker, which is in a similar vein to what he enjoyed about playing in Chicago with their long history of linebackers. Similar to New England, however, the Ravens would need to massage their books to make this work under the salary cap.