The Chicago Bears and 2018 first-round pick Roquan Smith have yet to come to terms on Smith’s rookie contract.
The speculation in recent weeks has been that the two sides have disagreed on how to handle the rookie’s guaranteed money if he were to be suspended as a result of the NFL’s new helmet-leading rules. Now the lone draft pick to not have signed his rookie deal, Smith has missed training camp time and, more than likely, playing time in the preseason as a result.
If a recent report is any indication, though, the new rules are not the issue that the sides are butting heads on.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune wrote in an article on Wednesday that the Bears have in fact agreed to leave Smith’s guaranteed money alone if he were to be suspended for an illegal tackle. Now, the issue at hand relates to the rookie’s off-the-field behavior. His agency, CAA Football now wants to ensure that his contract shields him from any discipline that may potentially result from off-the-field issues.
Haugh had this to say on the issue:
The Bears’ reluctance to [include contract language that would protect Smith from discipline] revolves around their fear of setting a precedent for future contracts and has nothing to do with concerns about Smith’s character, the source said.
As made evident by the new issue - as well as the discussions regarding the new helmet rule - CAA is aiming to make sure that their client is able to maintain as much of his contract as possible. The Bears, though, are afraid that giving in to such demands would make it the norm for players and agents to order for certain luxuries. As Haugh mentioned in his article, such an act is uncommon around the league today:
But only four teams in the league have written contracts going as far with protections as Smith seeks, a source said. The other 28 have avoided setting such contractual precedent, perhaps out of a fear of unintended consequences. It’s not a common demand, according to one longtime agent who has negotiated NFL deals.
The idea that Chicago and CAA were past the helmet-related issues was first proposed by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times in Wednesday’s episode of the Hoge and Jahns podcast. Jahns did not state the new reasoning for the stalemate, but was the first to allude that guaranteed money was no longer the issue.
Smith is projected to be a starter at inside linebacker for the Bears alongside Danny Trevathan upon signing his contract. With frustrations among the team’s fanbase escalating by the day, one can only hope that that signing occurs sooner rather than later.
Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He is also an NFL Draft writer at USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or emailed at email@example.com.