Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Bears Cling to Hope for Signing


Linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade after contract negotiations have stalled with the Bears but GM Ryan Poles has other ideas.


aUGUST 9, 2022

Bears GM Ryan Poles holds out hope of signing linebacker Roquan Smith even though the team's linebacker star has requested a trade.

"Right now my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team," Poles said after Bears Family Fest practice Tuesday at Soldier Field. "And we're going to take it day-by-day. At the end of the day we've got to do what's best for this organization. But my intentions are to make sure Roquan Smith's on this team."

Smith was asking for a trade because attempts at talks have stagnated without a serious offer from the Bears.

"Unfortunately the new front office regime doesn't value me here," Smith said in a letter on Twitter through NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "They've refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of the journey has been 'take it or leave it.'

"The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself and for the entire LB market if I signed it.' "

Rapoport tweeted that Smith claims the Bears want him to take de-escalator clauses in the contract that would lessen his pay if he failed to hit specific marks.

"I've been trying to get something done that's fair since April, but their focus has been on trying to take advantage of me," Smith said in the letter.

The Bears plan to use Smith as a we'ak side linebacker in their new 4-3 scheme under coach Matt Eberflus, and he did practice all offseason before he got to camp and decided not to participate on the field. He is attending meetings and is at practices on the sidelines in a "hold-in."

Despite issuing his letter and accusations on Tuesday, he was with the team at Soldier Field watching practice on the sidelines.

"I'll double down on what I've said before: My feelings for Roquan haven't changed at all," Poles said. "I think he's a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he's done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we're at right now.

"I thought we'd be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you."

Poles said the fact Smith does not have an agent makes a deal tougher to achieve.

"It's difficult," Poles said. "There's emotions involved and it's tough. It's a very unique situation that we've had to deal with and I thought we've done a pretty good job, which again that's why I'm a little disappointed we're at this spot."

Coach Matt Eberflus said he speaks almost daily with Smith, even though Matthew Adams is currently taking all the plays at weak side linebacker with starters.

"There's few things that surprise you," Eberflus said. "You take it for what it is and you move forward, and that's what you do. So I really didn't have any reaction. I was disappointed in that but that's where it is right now.

"We're working forward. Ryan's going to be working forward with Roquan, and we'll see where it goes."

Eberflus said he isn't worried about the situation affecting team morale.

Players are trying to stay out of the fray.

"I mean, he's one of the best players in the NFL," new Bears tackle Riley Reiff said. "I've played against him, how many years now, and just what he brings, the leader, the type of guy he is in the locker room, we want him here."

Reiff said he didn't know why lack of an agent should stop a deal from being struck.

"Yeah, I mean, I've known a lot of guys that have done their own contracts," he said. "More power to them. I have an agent. I have a great agent, Neil Cornrich, but some guys take that on and some guys can handle it."

Smith suggested perhaps the McCaskey family could get involved "...and maybe they can salvage this, but as of right now I don't see a path back to the organization I truly love," he said.

Poles was not going into contract talk specifics, the way Smith did in the statement on Twitter.

"In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I've always believed and always will that we take care of our homegrown talent," Poles said. "We pay them, we take care of them and we take everyone for what they've done and what they can become in the future. And with this situation, we've showed respect from a very early timeframe and with that said, there's record-setting pieces of this contract that I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves, and obviously that hasn't been the case."

Coach Matt Eberflus has called the position Smith plays in the defense critical, but tries not to be involved in talk between the organization and players beyond letting them know they're needed on the field.

"I mean it’s documented in the defense that’s the position, right?" Eberflus said. "That’s one of the positions, that, the three technique, outside pass rushers, nickel. Those guys are all very important to us, and that Will position is a cog to that."

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