Things Could Soon Get Ugly in the Roquan Smith Extension Negotiations

Roquan Smith’s holdout has reached the point of worrisome. Maybe it had already reached that point, and now it’s elevated from worrisome to, full-blown potential point of no return.

Smith released a note this week through Ian Rapoport requesting a trade, indicating that he felt disrespected by GM Ryan Poles and his front office. In response, Poles said he was disappointed in the comments, but still trying to get a deal done with the 2018 first-round pick.

It’s apparent that Smith doesn’t feel that the Bears have made the type of honest effort that Poles insisted that they have, hence the trade request, essentially an ultimatum.

The Bears feel that they’ve made fair offers and negotiated in good faith, and perhaps that’s why we saw them remove Smith from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Wednesday. That move could be a counter-strike by Poles, letting Smith know that they’re ready to exercise their right to fine him for not participating in practice if things stay on the current trajectory. Poles and the Bears could begin fining Smith $40,000 for each non-injury related missed practice, which could theoretically start as soon as today if they chose to take that step.

That could be the nuclear option for the Bears because it would almost surely validate Smith’s belief that they haven’t negotiated in good faith, whether true or not.

While we heard much in the way of dollars and cents regarding these negotiations, it’s evident that Roquan feels like he should be the highest paid (or darn close) linebacker in the NFL. They seemingly don’t agree, evidenced by the fact that a deal hasn’t isn’t close. NFL insider Adam Schefter confirmed as much on Wednesday when he joined the Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000.

“My view from the outside is, the Bears have made a number of, where it sounds like to me, compelling offers,” Schefter told Waddle & Silvy. “Now, I can be proven otherwise, but I’ve chatted about some offers with some of the people connected to the Bears, and I’ve run those numbers by other teams, and they’re like, ‘wow.’ In their minds, they feel like it’s fair.

“Obviously, Roquan Smith doesn’t. He feels like he’s being mistreated, and that’s his perspective, and so we’ll see where this goes.”

So, here we are. But what’s next? While Roquan has been stellar for the Bears since he was drafted, and believe me, I’ve advocated for him being a first-team All-Pro the past two years; I don’t believe he has as much leverage in these negotiations as he would like to think.

Smith is on a rookie deal, and he needs to play to gain that fifth year of NFL service to reach free agency, so if the Bears don’t want to honor his trade request, they don’t have to, and Smith will have to play. In the NFL’s FAQ section, this is what they define as an accrued season:

“In order to accrue a season, a player must have been on (or should have been on) full-play status for at least six regular-season games in a given season. A player under contract must report to his team’s training camp on his mandatory reporting date to earn an accrued season. If a player holds out his services for a “material period of time,” he is also at risk of not accruing a season.”

So, Smith has to start practicing and play six games this season to gain that needed year to become an unrestricted free agent next spring. The Bears don’t have to honor his trade request, and they don’t have to extend him.

That’s not the desired outcome, of course. The happy ending is a new deal, and everyone hugs and makes up. But what if that’s not in the cards? The Bears can look to trade him, but Schefter also noted on Waddle & Silvy that a) teams that he has shared the numbers with have said that it was a good offer (so are they willing to go higher?), and b) it would cost a team trading for Smith a massive extension for Smith and a haul of a return for the Bears. Or would it? Could the impending extension soften the return value for the Bears? When asked if Chicago could land a first-rounder for Smith in a trade as things stand today, Schefter wasn’t convinced they could:

“I don’t know, but I don’t think so,” Schefter said. “I say that only because you have to pay the player, and you’ve got to play the Bears. This is where it gets tricky. What team that’s out there is going to be willing to pay him today north of $20 million dollars? Is there a team out there? 

Number one, how many teams have the space to do that today, number two, how many teams have the need to do that today, and then number three, how many teams have the space, have the need, and then will also be willing to compensate the Bears enough to make them want to trade the guy? It’s not a simple thing to do.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. That’s a lot of factors that have to line up for the Bears to Smith and get fair value in return for a player of his caliber.

If things reach the point of no return in Chicago, Poles could be left with two options.

  • OPTION A: Remove the distraction and recoup something in the way of talent or draft picks for Smith, and be done with this topic. If they were to trade him, Lu put together a nice list of teams that could be interested in his services.
  • OPTION B: Refuse to honor the trade request (if the value was softened to the point where he deemed it unfair), forcing Smith to play the minimum he needs to accrue this season and become a free agent and watch him walk for nothing next spring.
  • Neither is appealing, but there’s the possibility that the rookie GM decides to stand his ground and go with the latter option. He would send a loud and clear message that he feels like he and his front office were fair in their offer and they’re not going to be bullied on the negotiating table, a message to current players and potential future free agents.

    “It’s a tough situation for everybody right now. Roquan wants to get paid like he’s a true free agent right now. The Bears, from what I’ve gathered, have made compelling offers, and both sides are stuck. The Bears feel like he is asking a lot. He feels like the Bears aren’t giving enough, and here we are.”

    Indeed it is a tough situation, but one that should gain some clarity in one direction or another soon with the NFL regular season now under a month away.

    written by

    Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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