Should The Patriots Trade For A First-Rate Tackler Searching For A New Home?

August 11, 2022

Bears All-Pro LB Roquan Smith is requesting a trade out of Chicago, and with his skillset and the Patriots’ needs at linebacker, he could be a good fit for the Patriots’ defense.

The most recent taste of game action for New England was the 2022 Wild Card game, an abysmal defensive showing against Buffalo, where the team was not able to make a single stop. This game, as well as multiple games down the stretch in 2021, was primarily impacted by the lack of speed and general effectiveness in the linebacker group in Foxborough.

The injury return of Cameron McGrone and Rhonnie Perkins and the acquisition of Mack Wilson certainly improve the group. However, it is still not an imposing unit in terms of firepower. With Roquan Smith requesting a trade out of Chicago, there is an opportunity for the Patriots to get some serious star power on that side of the ball.

What Should The Patriots Like About Roquan Smith?

Smith has had an impressive career as a linebacker. In his time at UGA, he won the Butkus award for the nation’s best linebacker and was one of the critical pieces during the Bulldogs’ run to the 2018 National Championship game. His on-the-field patience and awareness of his general football IQ were most notable in his college career. He had the physicality and quickness to get to the ball carrier or the ball itself, yet the restraint to stay back and read the play before he eventually accelerated.

His ability to lead the defense in the big moments and help his team account for mismatches was of note. The 2018 Georgia defense was nowhere near the level it is at now. Still, in multiple games against extreme offenses, most noteworthily against Oklahoma in the 2018 Rose Bowl Semifinal, he made some vital tackles to help the team make critical stops down the stretch. Such a presence and ability would be beneficial for the Patriots, especially with the AFC containing several potent and balanced attacks and the defense’s struggles in their playoff game last year against Buffalo.

This all has translated quite well in his career as a Bear. He came into the league with a fast 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds, and that number doesn’t even correctly represent his on-the-field quickness. In Chicago, he showed his versatility as a linebacker. He can penetrate the backfield and has had 14 sacks and 43 tackles for loss. He is also helpful against the pass and has deflected 17 passes and intercepted five in his career.

Overall, his ability to tackle is extraordinary. He’s a fast yet physical player that has a great read on plays, and as a result, he has recorded 524 tackles in only four NFL seasons, including 163 tackles last year, a figure that was fifth in the league in 2021 and helped him become an NFL second-team All-Pro. Having a sure tackler would be tremendously valuable for New England.

How Could The Patriots Use Smith?

It is no secret that the Patriots need speed on defense. The second half of the season made this abundantly clear. Roquan provides speed and sure tackling ability and would likely immediately become the leader of the linebacker core if he is a Patriot. The Patriots struggled at linebacker against the pass and against the run, and Smith can provide help with both.

He’s not the most significant player, but the Patriots and the NFL have been shifting towards smaller, faster LBs. Furthermore, while his size was the biggest knock on him coming out of college, Roquan’s tackling ability in the NFL shows that his lack of size doesn’t impact his ability to make significant, critical hits. Finally, his versatility would allow him to play several positions. His best fit would be the strong or right side, the weaker part of the Patriots’ current linebackers.

The Bottom Line

Roquan Smith would be a good fit and tremendously help the Patriots’ defense. His speed, awareness, and tackling ability are among the best linebackers in the league and provided that the asking requirements are reasonable, the Patriots should try to make a move for him.

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