According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the Chicago Bears and Roquan Smith did actually come to a compromise in their contract standoff that saw Smith miss all of this year’s training camp. Smith did get some monetary protection of guaranteed money against most incidents that could take place on a football field and while in uniform. There are also protections against things that could happen while he’s playing.
Here’s the gist, and when Smith could have his guarantees voided.
If Smith is suspended for three games or more for things that happen during a play such as an illegal hit or unnecessary roughness, the Bears could void future guaranteed money from his rookie contract. The three game clause does not add up over time, so three separate one-game suspensions would not equate to a three-game suspension, and therefore would not void any of his money.
Anything less than a three-game suspension at any time, and Smith loses none of his guaranteed money. It must unequivocally be a one-time suspension of three or more games. Only one player has had a three-game suspension of that kind over the last decade, and that’s the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict: notoriously one of the most dirty players in the NFL.
As for any extracurriculars on the field that didn’t occur in an actual football play, Smith will only lose his guaranteed money if he’s the obvious aggressor in an incident or if he’s suspended two or more games for a post-play infraction. If Smith is defending a teammate or himself, and a suspension is only set at one game, he loses no future guaranteed money.
This is where the Bears eventually yielded and gave in to some of Smith’s desired contract language. Original parameters maintained Chicago had sole discretion to void guarantees from consequences of a post-play incident, regardless of what had happened. So Smith maintains a semblance of control over his guaranteed money from a four-year, $18 million dollar deal signed on Monday. And the Bears maintain the possibility of voiding some of that money, but only in extremely special disciplinary cases that rarely occur.
Keep in mind on a semi-related note, that $11 million of Smith’s “guaranteed” money is incentives-based (which is where this voidable money can come into play). So there are still future battles for players to fight if they should so choose.
In the end, it appears Smith and his representation in Creative Artists Agency did win a player rights’ battle, while the Bears didn’t set their undesired precedent. What likely pressed negotiations to their conclusion were two previous precedents: Danny Trevathan’s suspension for a hit on the Packers’ DaVante Adams last year. And with impeccable timing, the Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler’s suspension for an on-field practice fight this past weekend.
Both scenarios hit both sides of the coin (Trevathan for a helmet hit on the field, and Ramsey and Fowler for an incident while in uniform) and both together being enough for Smith and his party to receive their security as examples. The Bears finally gave in to Smith’s wants with what is often referred to as a “good faith clause” legally: where both parties will agree to deal with each other fairly, honestly, and of course, in good faith in regards to a contract.
This wasn’t the best protective language Smith could have received in his deal, as former NFL executive Joe Banner details. But it was a solid improvement on original demands.
Sometimes roadblocks and crossed arms happen, and these matters unfortunately take longer. The handshake between Smith and Bears general manager Ryan Pace must have been quite hearty and firm after this mess.
If there ever was a win-win situation and a happy middle, it’s this negotiation. The lost training camp of three weeks of practice will soon be forgotten.
Robert is an editor, writer, and producer for Windy City Gridiron, The Rock River Times, The Athletic Chicago, and other fine places. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.