Jaquan Brisker didn’t have to hold out long. Right before training camp began, the Chicago Bears reached an agreement to get their 2nd round safety signed. Robert Quinn also showed up for practice after missing the entire spring. That leaves Roquan Smith as the singular holdout with camp underway. While unfortunate for the Bears’ defense, this situation isn’t a surprise. After four excellent seasons, there was always a strong possibility Smith would pull something like this. He wants an extension and seems prepared to sit until the team gets serious about giving him one.
GM Ryan Poles made his stance clear. He loves the player and the person. The Bears are dedicated to making this work. No further details were offered. In these situations, it is easy to blame the organization for not doing enough. The truth is often murkier than that. There is a strong possibility Smith is making things more difficult for the organization than it needs to be. Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog brought some clarity to the subject one the Irish Bears Show.
From what he’s hearing, most of the problem lay with the linebacker.
The Bears are prepared to make Smith one of the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL. Right up there with Shaquille Leonard, who reigns supreme at $19.7 million per year. Matching or topping that isn’t out of the question. The problem is Smith’s camp isn’t reasonable. They don’t only want to top that number. They want to obliterate it.
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Remember that Smith doesn’t have an agent. The negotiations are going directly through him with advice from “a family member,” as Brad Biggs put it. So it makes perfect sense they’d have an inflated idea of what the linebacker can get. They are also likely testing Poles to see what they can get away with.
Roquan Smith took a classic business approach.
Smart people come in asking for more than they think they’ll likely get. There is always the possibility the other party will agree to the demand. Obviously, the Bears haven’t done that. They want Smith there for the long haul but don’t intend to get bent over the barrel. It is about finding common ground. The team is willing to give Smith top-of-the-market money. It is on him to lower the demands enough that both sides are satisfied with the deal.
That takes time.
T.J. Watt staged a similar stunt last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His contract didn’t get worked out until right before the regular season. Roquan Smith himself held out as a rookie. He didn’t return until mid-August. Bears fans should prepare for this thing to drag out for a while. If nothing else, it will be a good opportunity for coaches to see what else they have at linebacker. Undrafted rookie Jack Sanborn had an interception in the first practice. Perhaps others will step up.
The bottom line is everything points toward a deal getting worked out. Poles already proved he could work through such a situation with Brisker. Smith is just a little more complicated. More money is involved, and there is no agent to help streamline the process.