A few hours after Ruchuan Smith appeared issued a statement Saying he requested a deal from the Chicago Bears, he watched Family Fest practice Tuesday from the sideline at Soldier Field.
General Manager Ryan Pauls took in training just 35 yards from his star quarterback. But the two seem to stay farther apart when it comes to contract negotiations.
Smith, who has sat through all 11 training camp practices while awaiting a new deal, said in a statement to the NFL Network Tuesday morning that the Bears front office “doesn’t value me here,” “refused to negotiate in good faith” and focused on “trying to take advantage of me.” He said he’s been in talks with the Bears since April and that the deal they proposed would be bad for him and the entire quarterback market.
“I’ve wanted to be a bear throughout my career, and help this team bring the Super Bowl back to our city,” Smith’s statement read. “However, they left me no choice but to request a deal that would allow me to play for an organization that truly appreciates what I bring to the table.”
In a short, unscheduled session with reporters after training, the Poles said he was disappointed with where the negotiations were and thought they would be in a better place given his appreciation for what Smith did on the field during his first four seasons in the NFL.
When asked if he intends to trade Smith, Bowles said, “At the moment I intend to sign Roquan for this team. We will take him day in and day out. At the end of the day, we have to do better for this organization. But my intent is to make sure that Roquan Smith is a member.” in this team.
The Poles said he believed the Bears had made a respectable offer to Smith “that showed value for what he is as a footballer and what he can become”.
Smith, who works without an agent, clearly doesn’t think that’s the case. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network cited a backloading offer that “would not make it the highest paid (back-back) in actual salary” and that proposed stair removal devices are rare for contracts of this size.
“I have always believed and will always take care of our local talent,” Poles said. “We pay them, we take care of them and we take everyone for what they’ve done and what they can become in the future. With that attitude, we’ve shown respect from a very early timeframe. However, there are standard pieces in this decade that I thought would show him the respect he deserves, obviously That this was not the case.”
Smith, 25, is a 2018 first-round pick for former GM Ryan Pace and plays in the fifth overall pick this season. He totaled 524 tackles, 43 losing tackles, 14 sacks, 17 defensive passes, and five interceptions over the course of four seasons.
Smith has clear blueprints for the contract. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Shaquille Leonard signed a five-year, $99 million deal last season, and San Francisco 49ers player Fred Warner’s five-year contract, was $95 million last year.
But given the faltering negotiations, there are still questions about the value the Poles place not on Smith but about his position at a weak full-back and whether the Poles want to see Smith’s performance under a new coaching staff before allocating that kind of money. The Bears can use the franchise mark on Smith for 2023.
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that it is not about one player,” said Poles. “My job is to build a roster that will sustain success for an extended period of time. We have to do better for the Chicago Bears.”
Smith, who could use his statement – posted on Twitter – as leverage, said he has yet to speak with McCasky’s family. “Maybe they can salvage this,” he said, “but so far I don’t see a way back to the organization that I really love.”
The Poles admitted that he faced a “difficult” situation negotiating with Smith without an agent as an intermediary.
“There are emotions involved and it is difficult,” Poles said. “It’s a very unique situation that we’ve had to deal with, and I think we’ve done a good job, which is why I’m a little disappointed that we’re in this place.”
Over the first two weeks of bootcamp, Smith organized a “hangover”, which means he participates in meetings and trains at Halas Hall and watches practices but doesn’t actually practice. The Bears put him on the list of physically unable to perform to open camp. On Tuesday, he trained on the sideline with injured players and then followed the team’s spells from the sideline, at one point teaming up with quarterback Nicolas Moreau.
Bears coach Matt Ebervloss said he talks to Smith almost daily – mostly about football, not business – although Ebervloss said he hasn’t spoken to him yet on Tuesday.
“Things happened in this business,” Eberlus said. “There are a few things that surprise you. You take them for what they are and move on, and that’s what you do. So I had no reaction. I was disappointed in that, but that’s where it is. We’re working forward. Ryan will work forward. With Roquan, we’ll see where she goes.”
The Bears offensive tackle Riley Reeve was one of two players who spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s training. He’s only been with the Bears for two weeks, but watched Smith play against him when he was Reiff with the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, and Cincinnati Bengals.
“He’s one of the best players in the NFL,” Reeve said. “I’ve played against him for several years and what exactly he brings, the captain and the kind of guy who’s in the locker room, we want him here.”