Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles on Roquan Smith trade request

A few hours after Roquan Smith issued a statement Saying he asked for a trade from the Chicago Bears, he watched Tuesday’s Family Fest practice from the sidelines at Soldier Field.

General manager Ryan Poles took part in the practice just 35 yards from his star linebacker. But the two apparently remain further apart when it comes to contract negotiations.

Smith, who attended all 11 training camp practices while awaiting a new deal, said in a statement Tuesday morning to NFL Network that the Bears’ front office “doesn’t like me here,” “refused to negotiate a deal.” sincerity”. and focused on “trying to take advantage of me”. He said he had been in talks with the Bears since April and that the deal they offered would be bad for him and the entire linebacker market.

“I wanted to be a bear my entire career, helping this team bring a Super Bowl back to our city,” Smith’s statement read. “However, they left me no choice but to request a trade that allows me to play for an organization that truly values ​​what I bring to the table.”

In a short, unscheduled session with reporters after training, Poles said he was disappointed with the state of negotiations and thought they would be in a better place given his appreciation for what Smith did on the field in his first four seasons in the NFL.

When asked if he intends to trade Smith, the Poles said: “At the moment my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team. And we’ll take it day by day. Ultimately, we have to do what’s best for this organization. But my intention is to make sure that Roquan Smith is in this team.

The Poles said he thought the Bears made a respectful offer to Smith that “showed value for who he is as a football player and what he can become.”

Smith, who works without an agent, obviously didn’t think that was the case. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport cited a delayed offer that “wouldn’t make him the highest paid (linebacker) in actual salary” and that offered de-escalations are rare for contracts of this magnitude.

“I have always believed and will always believe that we take care of our homegrown talent,” Poles said. “We pay them, we take care of them and we take everyone for what they have done and what they can become in the future. And with this situation, we showed respect from the start. And that said, there are record elements of this contract that I thought would show him the respect he deserves, and obviously it didn’t.

Smith, 25, is a 2018 first-round pick under former general manager Ryan Pace and is playing on his fifth-year option this season. He had 524 tackles, 43 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, 17 passes defended and five interceptions in four seasons.

Smith has obvious plans for a contract. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard signed a five-year, $99 million contract last season, and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner’s contract was five years, $95 million last year. .

But with negotiations stalled, questions remain about the value the Poles place not on Smith but on his position as weakside linebacker and whether the Poles want to see how Smith fares under a new team. coaches before committing that kind of money. The Bears could use the franchise tag on Smith for 2023.

“We can’t lose sight that this is not just one player,” Poles said. “My job is to build a roster that is going to sustain success for a long time. We have to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears. »

Smith, who could very well use his statement – posted on Twitter – as leverage, said he has yet to speak with the McCaskey family. He said “maybe they can salvage this, but right now I don’t see a path to the organization I really love.”

The Poles acknowledged that he faced a “difficult” situation to negotiate with Smith without an agent as a go-between.

“There are emotions involved and it’s difficult,” Poles said. “It’s a very unique situation that we had to deal with, and I think we did a good job, which is why I’m a bit disappointed that we’re in this place.”

During the first two weeks of training camp, Smith staged a “hold-in,” meaning he attends meetings, trains at Halas Hall, and watches practices but doesn’t actually train. The Bears placed him on the physically unable to play list to open camp. On Tuesday, he practiced on the sideline with injured players, then watched team periods from the sideline, at one point snuggling up with center linebacker Nicholas Morrow.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus said he speaks with Smith almost daily — mostly about football, not business — although Eberflus said he hasn’t spoken to him yet on Tuesday.

“Things happen in this business,” Eberflus said. “There are few things that surprise you. You take it for what it is and you move on, and that’s what you do. So I really had no reaction. I was disappointed with that, but that’s where it’s at right now. We are moving forward. Ryan is going to work with Roquan, and we’ll see where that takes us.

Bears offensive tackle Riley Reiff was one of two players to speak to reporters after practice Tuesday. He’s only been with the Bears for a few weeks, but saw Smith play against him when Reiff was with the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.

“He’s one of the best players in the NFL,” Reiff said. “I’ve played against him for how many years now and what he brings, the leader, the type of guy he is in the dressing room, we want him here.”

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