Roquan Smith’s hold-in came to an end on Saturday with the linebacker participating in his first practice since training camp began. But Smith’s return is just another checkpoint on a road that has been winding and twisting as contract extension negotiations haven’t led to a deal keeping the two-time second-team All-Pro linebacker in Chicago for the long haul.
Smith spoke to the media at Halas Hall after Saturday’s practice. We’ve clipped some highlights, adding commentary for depth and perspective on the situation. Enjoy!
“Negotiations Are Over” … So What’s the Plan?
After going through the Allen Robinson experience last year (most notably, this event) might put Bears fans in a place where they worry about the mindset of a player entering a contract year. But Smith is dispelling any notions that he wouldn’t be all about football with these two quotes that stood out to me:
“My full intention is to play this season. And whatever happens, happens. Whatever it is I have to go through this season, I’ll do it chin up, chest out, sunsets, no regrets, baby.”
“It’s my last year of my deal, and I’m just going to take it, run with it, and bet on myself like I’ve always done. Negotiations are over right now. I’m just focused on the season, going out there, being the best Bear I can be because I owe that to the guys in the locker room, to the city, and all the loyal fans.”
There is a part of me that hopes that the “right now” after “negotiations are over” is doing a ton of heavy lifting. It doesn’t seem like Roquan Smith wants to get into nitty gritty negotiations during the season. And without a NFL-certified agent working on his behalf, in-season negotiations will be more challenging than in other situations. All in all, Smith appears ready to turn the page and go all-in on Bears football in 2022.
A ‘Distasteful’ Process
When watching Smith’s press conference live (you can see it in the video embedded below), I audibly gasped when he used the word “distasteful” to describe the Bears’ actions during negotiations. And I knew that it would take off as the buzzword that caught on via social media. For the sake of clarity and fairness, here is what Smith said (beyond using the word distasteful):
I know there’s going to be a lot of questions about the process and everything like that. On the process, I thought it was very distasteful to say the least. It wasn’t what I anticipated, nor did I, like what I expected from the situation. But I’m grateful for the fans, all the loyal fans, and everyone. The players as well in the locker room and the city of Chicago that stood behind me throughout this process. It means a lot to myself. But now, I’m shifting my focus to the season, and more so just focused on being the best teammate I can be to those guys in the locker room.”
Wow … that use of distasteful really sticks with you, doesn’t it? Smith would go on to expand on it after being asked why he used that word to describe the process:
“I think it was more so not coming to an agreement when I feel like I’ve busted my ass so long here and not being rewarded with something I thought was rightfully deserved. In a sense, it’s like, hey, you bust your ass, you may get rewarded in a sense. But, hey, that’s that. I’m moving past it now, and I’m focusing on the season and going out there and enjoying the time with my guys because that’s who I truly care about.”
Oof! Maybe it’s a good thing if talks were to take a backseat for now. It sure sounds like it’s been a draining process. Perhaps a cooling off period is necessary. Maybe let Roquan let off some steam in Week 1 against some 49ers ball carriers.
- Hey, what happened to that trade request? “That was declined, so I think my focus has to shift.”
- It doesn’t sound like Smith regrets not having an NFLPA-certified agent. Smith has advisers, but he seems to be OK leading the charge here:
“Times are changing. I feel like players want to be at the table to have full transparency. To know what’s actually going on and what’s being said. Because a lot of people can say a lot of different things. But when you’re there yourself, you see it with your own eyes. You know what’s going on.”
- When sharing his perspective as to how negotiations went, Smith said: “Obviously, the talks didn’t get too far. And it didn’t end the way I wanted them to end.” That’s putting it pretty bluntly, but not wholly unexpected when there isn’t an agent available representing as a buffer in talks.
- As is this: “There’s no more offers at this time and I don’t think there will be any during the season.”
- In terms of what Smith was seeking, it is evident the two sides aren’t really close. “I see myself at a number. And they see me at a number,” Smith said. “And we couldn’t agree. We can agree to disagree, but I would never accept a bad deal.”
- Even though Smith is all-in on the 2022 Bears, he also knows what’s ahead.
It’s basically like, ‘hey, I know at the end of the year, it’s going to be a big season for myself.’ And also, at the end of the season, there’s a lot of different directions things could go. So I know I need to put myself and my body in the best possible situation to succeed. And I feel like with this time that I have, it’ll be enough time for me to prepare myself for the season.”
- There aren’t myriad directions for Smith to travel. But there are optional paths. Let’s elaborate, in brief: (1) Smith can sign an extension with the Bears when negotiations resume in the offseason. Ideally, cooler heads will be better positioned to iron something out. (2) The Bears can give Smith the Franchise or Transition Tag, keeping him around on a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $18-20 million. (3) Smith could become an unrestricted free agent if no extension is reached or if a tag isn’t handed out.
- Smith said he hasn’t been fined by the Bears for skipping practices after the team pulled him off the PUP list. For what it’s worth, the Bears don’t have to fine him. It’s just that they could. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it. Things are contentious enough as is, so I don’t think fining him for his absences will help matters.
For more from Roquan Smith, you can watch the press conference in its entirety below: