Contract negotiations are never easy in the NFL. For Roquan Smith and the Chicago Bears, their efforts to agree on a long-term deal took a hard turn for the worse this week. Smith drew first blood by posting his trade request (through Ian Rapoport) on Twitter on Tuesday. General manager Ryan Poles struck back Wednesday by removing Smith from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
The Bears placed Smith on the PUP list at the start of training camp in an act of good faith. Poles knew Smith was likely to be a ‘hold-in’, and rather than subject him to any potential fines or penalties for not practicing, Poles, in a way, took care of him. Smith’s placement on the PUP list protected him from any potential team sanctions.
That isn’t the case anymore. Now, Smith’s refusal to practice opens the door for fines. And if that happens, the standoff between Roquan Smith and the Chicago Bears will get uglier.
But, here’s the thing: Poles isn’t wrong for activating Smith. Despite Smith’s displeasure with the offers he’s received from the Bears, Poles is acting in good faith. He’s trying to get a deal done, even if his valuation of Smith’s services isn’t yet in line with what Smith thinks he should get. Poles said this week that his intention is to sign Smith and keep him in a Bears uniform. But it’s obvious he was disappointed by Smith’s decision to make the negotiations public on Twitter, and he has every right to be.
Roquan Smith said the Bears’ new front office — aka Ryan Poles — doesn’t value him in Chicago. He said the Bears haven’t negotiated in good faith. He said Chicago is trying to take advantage of him. Those are fighting words. And in any fight, there are counterpunches. That’s what Poles did by deeming Smith fit for practice.
It’ll be interesting to see where this goes from here. Both the Bears and Smith are digging in on their positions. The more days that go by with this level of animosity, the more likely a trade becomes. But as ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out on the Waddle and Silvy show Wednesday, the trade market for Smith may not be as ripe as some have suggested. According to Schefter’s sources, that the Bears have made several compelling offers to Smith. In other words, Ryan Poles is trying to get a deal done.
Roquan Smith deserves to get paid at or near the top of the inside linebacker market. Ryan Poles, meanwhile, has every right to place a value on what he thinks Smith means to the future of the Chicago Bears. Sometimes, those numbers don’t align, as appears to be the case with these negotiations.
Hopefully, Smith remains a Bear for the foreseeable future. But at this rate, the odds of that happening are getting worse.