The Arizona Cardinals have been heavily linked to a Chicago Bears linebacker this offseason, but not the one circling the news this afternoon.
Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade out of the organization Tuesday afternoon. Smith is one of the best at his position and is seeking his first big contract in the NFL. He has been a second-team All-Pro each of the last two seasons.
At just age 25, Smith will likely generate tons of interest from across the NFL. Could the Cardinals be one of those teams to pick up the phone to the Windy City area code?
General Manager Steve Keim has spent his entire tenure with the Cardinals searching for long-term stability at the inside linebacker position. While he’s had some short-term success, he’s struggled to find that elite presence in the middle of the field.
The Cardinals under Keim have selected four inside linebackers in the first round in Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Only one is currently slated to play the inside linebacker position for an NFL team this season. Given the front office’s infatuation with the position, it is almost guaranteed they will at least inquire about a player of Smith’s caliber.
Similar to the running back position, many teams have become hesitant to allocate premium contracts to inside linebackers. Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Bears gave Smith a ‘disrespectful’ offer.
For the Cardinals, they would have to send over high draft capital or young players (or a combination of the two). They would then have to commit a lucrative contract extension for Smith. A contract to compare could San Francisco’s Fred Warner, who inked a five-year, $95 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.
The Cardinals are currently slated to start former first-round pick Zaven Collins and journeyman Nick Vigil at the two starting inside linebacker spots. There are certainly a ton of question marks there.
Acquiring Roquan Smith would be undoubtedly pricy, but would give the team an elite player on defense for the next half decade. The Cardinals have struggled with run defense and overall physicality at times under Vance Joseph. Smith solves a ton of those problems and gives the team a much more threatening defense in the daunting NFC West.
Perhaps Steve Keim can put together another extraordinary trade for the Cardinals, which he’s proven capable of. In all likelihood, however, this would get very pricy.