Hooray! The Chicago Bears start training camp this week and the team’s rookies are expected to make their way to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais to get things started. Well, except for one high-profile piece of the puzzle.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweets that first-round pick Roquan Smith won’t join his rookie teammates when they report to camp today. Smith has yet to sign his rookie contract and Rapoport reports that the University of Georgia product won’t be around until a deal is done. To be clear, Smith isn’t the only first-round pick without a contract at this point of the summer. There are 13 others who have yet to put pen to paper and agree to a deal, but he’s the one we care about most because of the big things he’s expected to do from the inside linebacker spot in Chicago.
Most rookie contracts are signed immediately because the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement featured a rookie wage scale that sets parameters for the contracts. But since 2011, offset language in contracts that is put in place to protect teams from paying a player’s full salary if he is cut by his original team and signed by another has led to some minor contract squabbles. That figures to be the case here, as it was most notably with Joey Bosa – the San Diego Chargers top pick in 2016 whose holdout lasted until late August.
Smith figures to play a major role in Vic Fangio’s defense, even as a rookie. The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft arrived in Chicago with big expectations after a season in which he earned wave after wave of accolades as a college defender. Smith picked up a ton of hardware last season and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus Award winner, and Consensus All-American.
The Bears need Smith if they’re going to meet the lofty expectations they’re putting on themselves, so I can’t imagine this contract dispute to last deep into the summer. The Bears don’t have a preseason game until August 2, so there is plenty of time to iron this thing out.