Roquan Smith

Bears Officially Sign Roquan Smith

Roquan Smith is officially in the fold. On Tuesday morning, the Bears announced that Smith has signed his rookie deal.

The Bears, predictably, did not release the details of Smith’s pact, but per the terms of his slot, we know that the No. 8 overall pick has received a four-year, $18MM guaranteed pact. And, via Mike Florio of PFT, we have the details on his guarantee structure in the event of discipline.

The two sides hammered out a formula that protects Smith against most of the potential incidents that would take place on the field. Smith’s guarantees will void only if the league office suspends him for three games or more for something that would happen during a play, such as lowering his helmet or roughing the quarterback. That’s not a cumulative three games, so Smith can be suspended for one or two games multiple times throughout his contract without forfeiting guarantees.

If Smith is suspended for one game for a post-play infraction in which he’s defending himself or a teammate, he’ll maintain his guarantees. For two games, however, he’ll forfeit them. If he’s deemed to be the aggressor in a post-play incident and suspended for one game, he will lose his guarantees.

Ultimately, the Bears had to deviate quite a bit from the standard language in order to get Smith on the practice field. It’s not ideal for Chicago, but the team is undoubtedly relieved to have its top draft pick under contract.

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Bears To Sign Rookie LB Roquan Smith

The Bears and first round linebacker Roquan Smith have finally agreed to terms on his rookie deal, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The agreement means that the longest rookie holdout of 2018 is finally over. 

[RELATED: Bears Sign Knile Davis]

Smith stayed away from the Bears as his agents balked at language in the Bears’ proposal. His reps wanted his guarantees protected in the event of league discipline, which spans off-the-field issues as well as late hits and things of that nature on the field. It’s not immediately clear where things landed, but we should know the specifics soon.

Smith, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft, is believed by some to have one of the highest ceilings of any player in this year’s class. Smith finished in the top ten of Heisman voting in his final year at Georgia as he tallied 137 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 6.5 sacks.

The rookie projects to start at outside linebacker for the Bears this year, opposite of Leonard Floyd. Smith may be behind the 8-ball in learning every part of the scheme, but the Bears are hopeful that he’ll be able to get on track quickly.

Per the terms of his slot, Smith’s deal will come in as a four-year, $18MM guaranteed pact.

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NFC North Notes: Packers, Rodgers, Bears

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has some ideas for how the NFL can improve, specifically when it comes to the salary cap and contracts. Given Rodgers’ contractual situation, it’s no surprise that he would like to see the league do away with the franchise tag.

I think if you didn’t have it, it would encourage teams to get deals done earlier and in the long run it actually might save them money,” he said (via Kevin Clark of The Ringer). “Because you’re doing a guy’s deal a year before he’s ready to play, especially young guys. Maybe they get him for cheap and, if he has a huge season his last year, cheaper than they would have gotten him after that season, if you sign him early.”

Rodgers, who is a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, would also like to see the NFL take a page from the NBA and institute a soft salary cap.

I would allow teams to go over the cap knowing if they do, since there’s not a hard cap, they are going to be faced with some luxury tax issues and they’d change their strategy,” Rodgers said. “It’s not like we’re hurting—just like the NBA, we’re not hurting for revenue. We’re doing excellent in the NFL and the NBA is doing fantastic as well.”

While you mull over Commissioner Rodgers’ suggestions, here’s more from his division:

  • Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is the only remaining unsigned 2018 draft pick and Joel Corry of CBSSports.com has a suggestion for how the two sides can bridge the gap. Smith’s contract, he writes, could have similar language to what was in Ndamukong Suh‘s Dolphins contract. Smith’s camp doesn’t want his guarantees to void in the event of league discipline, but a compromise could involve a clause that says Smith would have to be suspended for at a certain percentage of the season’s game in order for the guarantees to be 86’d. In Suh’s case, that number was 25%.
  • On Wednesday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said the club would be open to exploring the free agent guard market for depth purposes. “We’re looking at all free agent areas, really,” Zimmer said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin). “That’s what those guys do at night. They come in here and watch — heck they watch other teams, they watch guys on the street. So yeah.” After learning that Nick Easton will likely miss the entire 2018 season with a neck injury, it seems likely that the Vikings will explore outside help for the interior line.

Latest On Bears LB Roquan Smith’s Holdout

The Bears are no longer fighting first-round linebacker Roquan Smith on contract language that would void his guaranteed money were he to be suspended under the NFL’s new helmet contact rule, according to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.

However, Smith — the final rookie without a contract in place — is not attending Chicago’s training camp as his agents are still reticent about certain language in the Bears’ proposed pact, per Haugh. Smith’s agents want him protected in the event he’s suspended for an event that’s considered “outside the realm of a football play”: a late hit, for instance. The Bears aren’t willing to begin a new contractual precedent by including such language, although a team source tells Waugh that disinclination has nothing to do with Smith’s character.

Chicago has reportedly been adamant that it wouldn’t attempt to void Smith’s future guarantees over a “football play,” per Haugh. As evidence, the club has provided its reaction to linebacker Danny Trevathan‘s illegal hit on Packers wideout Davante Adams in 2017. After that incident, the Bears never made any attempt to recoup money from Trevathan or void his remaining guaranteed money.

Per Haugh, only eight teams have acceded to rookie demands of language that would protect their guarantees in the event of a helmet-related suspension. However, just four clubs have allowed the protection that Smith wants, so it’s unlikely the Bears want to create a new precedent given that most of the NFL has not given in.

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No Progress For Bears, Roquan Smith

The Bears and Roquan Smith are at a “stalemate,” head coach Matt Nagy says. The lack of progress is likely frustrating for Nagy & Co. as Smith has yet to report to camp. 

It is at a stalemate, but at the same time I’m not going to get into any more of where it’s at publicly. I don’t think it’s fair to him, I don’t think it’s fair to his agent, I don’t think it’s fair to our organization. We’re going to keep it between us and I think that’s the best thing to do right now,” Nagy said (via Mark Potash of the Sun Times).

The main holdup in talks may be related to the forfeiture of guarantees in the event of a suspension. This year, the league has introduced a new rule this offseason that could result in players getting suspended for lowering their helmets on hits. If the league starts handing out suspensions en masse, Smith’s agents do not want him to lose his financial security.

Meanwhile, one report says the real issue is language that allows the team to void guarantees for many different reasons, including team-imposed discipline. Whatever the holdup is, it’s becoming an problem.

Only four first-round picks have held out in the last five years. Under the current CBA, Smith’s holdout is the second-longest behind Joey Bosa’s 31-day holdout with the Chargers in 2016. The good news for the Bears is this – Bosa was stellar despite missing practices and went on to win the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy.

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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.

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NFC Notes: Rodgers, Elflein, Bradham, Rams, Bears

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers may be far apart when it comes to an extension, but the franchise quarterback doesn’t sound like he’s all that bothered by the lack of progress. Talking to Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press, Rodgers said he never planned on holding out as he pursued a new deal.

“I don’t really operate like that. I have two years left on my deal,” Rodgers said. “They’re obviously more than willing to talk about an extension. There wasn’t any animosity on either side.”

The 34-year-old is set to earn an average annual salary of $19.9MM in the final two years of his deal. Once the contract expires, the Packers would seemingly be in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. As our own Zach Links explained, the organization could franchise him in 2021 and 2022, bumping that average annual salary to $25MM per season.

Let’s take a look at more notes from around the NFC…

  • Vikings center Pat Elflein was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list yesterday, and Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that was due to a pair of offseason shoulders. It was previously announced that the 24-year-old would undergo surgery to repair his fractured left ankle, but the Elflein also underwent a procedure to fix a lingering shoulder injury. Goessling tweets that while the offensive lineman wouldn’t commit to a return date, his health isn’t expected to be a major concern. ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin adds (via Twitter) that former third-rounder is simply “waiting for medical clearance” before he returns to the field.
  • Last month, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was slapped with a one-game suspension stemming from his 2016 involvement in an alleged assault incident. While the 28-year-old is set to miss the team’s season-opener, it sounds like he could have been out a whole lot longer. Bradham told John McMullen of 97.3 ESPN that he was originally facing a six-game suspension (via Les Bowen of Philly.com). His side ultimately appealed and got the suspension reduced to a single game.
  • Rams offensive guard Jamon Brown was suspended for the first two games of next season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The former third-rounder told Rich Hammond of Orange County Register that the suspension was related to a speeding violation and marijuana possession (Twitter link). As Hammond points out, the 25-year-old was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence.
  • The Bears worked out former Assumption wideout Ashton Grant today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The six-foot-two receiver set a number of school records during his four years with the program, including receiving yards (3,204) and receiving touchdowns (36). Chicago is currently rostering 10 receivers, including rookies Anthony Miller and Javon Wims.
  • Speaking of Bears rookies, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders why Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned more than a week after the team’s training camp started. Florio cites PFT’s previous report that “then-unsigned players at the bottom of the top 10 were being delayed both by roster bonuses structure and by language that would void the guarantees in the fully-guaranteed four-year contracts.” What does this mean? If the linebacker is suspended for violating the league’s helmet-related tackling rules, the contract’s guaranteed money would “go away.” This would make it considerably easier for the Bears to move on from Smith down the road. Of course, neither side is hoping it’d ever get to that point, as the organization clearly has high hopes for the eighth-overall pick. However, as Florio explains, it’d make sense for the rookie’s camp to stand firm in removing this language from the rookie contract.

Only Seven Unsigned NFL Draft Picks Remain

The overwhelming majority of this year’s NFL draft picks have signed their rookies deals. As training camp gets started, only the following seven players are without contracts:

For Mayfield, Darnold, Ward, Allen, and Smith, the holdup is reportedly tied to offset languagePlayers with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless. There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of the Top 10 picks and their respective teams, though Smith has been staying away from the Bears.

In Edmunds’ case, it’s likely that his agent is haggling over guarantees in the fourth year of his rookie contract. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round often don’t get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny took less in fourth-year guarantees than last year’s No. 27 overall pick, talks dragged for several other players near the back end of the round. Others, such as Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley and Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan have signed, but the Virginia Tech product is still in limbo.

Pettis is believed to be in line for a significant role this season, so it would behoove the Niners to get a deal done sooner rather than later.

Bears Rookie Roquan Smith Staying Away

Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith is not with the team as the rookies report for training camp on Monday, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The linebacker and the Bears are still negotiating his rookie deal, so he may be staying away until an agreement is reached.

For now, this technically is not a holdout. It won’t officially be a holdout unless Smith does not show on July 19 when veterans are due to arrive.

The Bears and Smith could be in disagreement over the linebacker’s offset languagePlayers with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.

Smith, the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, finished in the top ten of Heisman voting in his final year at Georgia. In 2017, he tallied 137 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 6.5 sacks.

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Offset Language Holding Up Top 10 Picks

There are 15 unsigned rookies left, and seven of them are in the top 10. The holdup for this year’s highest selections is offset language, a league source tells Mike Florio of PFT

Players with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.

The following top 10 players are without deals and there’s a common thread in the representation for most of them:

As Florio notes, CAA also represents No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The new Colts guard agreed to terms back in May on a deal that contains offset language, but also includes large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021. The presence of those bonuses effectively offsets the presence of offsets and could be a good middle ground solution for the agency’s remaining unsigned top 10 picks.

There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of these players and the teams that drafted them, but Joey Bosa‘s situation in 2016 serves as a reminder that offset language can become a real issue that can lead to a training camp holdout.

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