Latest On Roquan Smith, Bears

Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, is one of only two first-year players from his draft class to remain unsigned. We heard several days ago that Smith’s holdout is related to the new NFL rule that prohibits a player from initiating contact with his helmet, and Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune reports that is indeed the case.

Smith’s camp is concerned that, if Smith were to be suspended under the new rule, the team could reclaim his guaranteed money. Head coach Matt Nagy conceded that fear is “part of the issue,” and four other sources confirmed that the new rule is at the root of Smith’s holdout. Campbell also says that Smith’s agents are asking the Bears to include in the contract a written assurance that the team would not go after any of Smith’s guaranteed money if he were suspended under the new rule. The Bears, meanwhile, do not want to include such a provision, and they are instead offering oral guarantees that they would be reasonable in assessing disciplinary action by the league against Smith. Just last year, the Bears did not seek to reclaim any guaranteed money from inside linebacker Danny Trevathan after he was suspended for an illegal hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams, as they deemed the hit to be the result of a “normal football play” without malicious intent.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, though, says the holdup goes beyond the new rules concerning initiating contact with the helmet (Twitter link). In fact, Graziano asserts that the issue is not the new helmet rule, and that the real source of contention is actually language that allows the team to void guarantees for many different reasons, including team-imposed discipline. So while the new rule would seem to affect Smith more than most rookies given his position and his reputation for tracking and tackling ballcarriers, the impasse may run a little deeper than that.

Campbell reports that both sides appear unwilling to blink, so it is difficult to say when Smith will finally suit up (he will not, of course, participate in this week’s Hall of Fame Game). Smith’s representatives at CAA Football represent plenty of other rookies who are already under contract — including Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, the No. 16 overall pick — so Bears fans will just have to hope that Smith and the team can find some sort of common ground as soon as possible (although CAA was able to get the written assurances it wanted in Edmunds’ contract, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that other teams refused to put in such assurances for CAA clients and deals got done anyway).

Smith’s representatives could not be reached for comment, and Bears GM Ryan Pace has not been available to the media since July 19.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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19 comments on “Latest On Roquan Smith, Bears

  1. sidewinder11

    So he wants protection from the financial implications of breaking the rules. Seems pretty childish

    • ahale224

      I think it seems ridiculous that the Bears want him to take “oral guarantees.” If they’re making them, be willing to put them in the contract.

      • crosseyedlemon

        It makes you wonder what kind of oral guarantee they got from Mike Glennon before they threw a fortune at him for a single win.

    • justinept

      The NFL keeps moving the bar every year on their definition of a legal hit – and the punishment for not keeping up to date with the latest change. It seems necessary to protect your own financial interest against a subjective rule that is continually changing.

      • crosseyedlemon

        I might add that even if the rule weren’t subjective it is discriminatory since it only applies to players on the defensive side of the ball. If teams are going to insist on this type of contract clause then they need to stop cherry picking individual rule violations and simplify it to any violation that leads to a suspension. The over-riding problem though is that lawyers are slowly sucking the life out of sports.

  2. crosseyedlemon

    The clause in question is rather illogical and probably irrelevant in any case. It makes more sense to punish a player for missing a tackle than making one. A player would likely have to be a repeat offender of the helmet rule to receive a suspension. To my knowledge no defender has yet served such a suspension as the rule has only been enforced in rare cases where there was clear intent to injure.

    • justinept

      You realize they just changed the rule again this year, right?

      It’s now a 15-yard penalty and a likely ejection if a player lowers his head and makes a hit.

      The first linebacker not to lower his head is going to get trucked. The first linebacker to realize he’s going to get trucked, is going to get ejected.

      • crosseyedlemon

        I only recall seeing two instances last season where defenders were flagged for a helmet spearing. In both cases the infraction was called because an exposed QB took a shot to the upper chest. No ejection or suspensions resulted although I believe both were fined by Goodell.

        • justinept

          It happened to Danny Travathian for his hit on Randall Cobb — and rightfully so, but that’s not the point.

          You can’t use data points of past seasons when the rule changed drastically in the off season. There is no data to look at here.

    • justinept

      He’ll win this one. The Bears aren’t going to take a PR hit – or risk alienating an agent who represents multiple players – for refusing to put an oral agreement in writing.

  3. ahale224

    Good point on Golic and Wingo, the Bears have been through 2 GMs in 3 years. Asking Smith to take the word of a regime that may not even be there through the length of his rookie deal leaves him with no assurances at all under a GM.

  4. cardscrazyinwil

    Not childish; not business. It’s personal when they take your money away. The kid has a right to get his money (egregious behavior being an exception of course).

  5. midway_monster85

    If the bears give in to these demands it will likely cause a snowball effect, and the bears know it. Any defensive players with star power are gonna want the same clause in their contracts. That being said the bears aren’t in the position to let maybe their best player sit during crucial development time. I blame the NFL. The pressure to make the game safer is so great it has them scrambling for new rules, and new languages in contracts. If your gonna change the greatest game on earth you better be pretty darn clear about this offset language..

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