Quarterback Sam Darnold and his agents had been fighting the same fight with the New York Jets that’s kept linebacker Roquan Smith away from participating in training camp with the Chicago Bears.
But when push came to shove, Darnold and the Jets reached the finish line first (as winners, to boot) as the two sides came to an agreement on a deal that puts the No. 3 overall pick in camp well before the team’s first preseason game.
The deal is done.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) July 30, 2018
The signing leaves Smith standing as the last remaining un-signed first-round pick, and as ESPN’s Dan Graziano sees it, the Bears have no one to blame but themselves.
Graziano expanded on the idea that it was more than just the helmet rule, in isolation, keeping Smith and the Bears from coming to an agreement. Because even if the Bears were concerned about Smith getting fined and/or suspended for illegal hits stemming from the new rule, one problem remains: the Bears want to be able to void guaranteed money in his contract if either of those scenarios plays out.
So rather than back their player during a time of uncertainty regarding a new rule that is still untested on the field, Graziano points out that the team is essentially saying, “If you get ejected or suspended for an illegal hit, we want to be able to take your money back.”
Frankly, that’s not a great look for a franchise that appeared to be moving in the right direction with a fresh outlook thanks to a new head coach, a clean slate with a young, developing quarterback, and a new lease on a life in the front office for its general manager. And what makes it look worse for the Bears is that while they appear to be looking for a loophole to avoid setting a precedent, one has already been set for teams to scrap the language and give players the contract protections they seek by several recently-written contracts. Oy! What a headache.
The stigma of the Bears being cheap faded into the background when the team hired a new coach while still paying John Fox after being fired and spent gobs of money on free agent upgrades throughout what was an aggressive offseason. To see that monster rear its ugly head during what would otherwise be a time of optimism is understandably unsettling for fans.