Poles, who was hired as the team’s new GM in January, has become entangled in his first significant public drama after Smith released a statement asking for the Bears to trade him.
Some are making the valid point that the trade request is a negotiation tactic on the part of Smith, who isn’t believed to have an agent. But in his statement, which he released via NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the fifth-year LB stated Chicago’s front office has “refused to negotiate in good faith,” also noting he didn’t “see a path back to the organization,” so things are not looking great on the extension front.
In response, Poles decided to address Smith’s claims head-on.
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Poles: I’m ‘Really Disappointed With Where We’re at Right Now’
“We are aware of everything that has popped up with Roquan and Twitter,” Poles said at the start of his presser.
“I’ll double down on what I’ve said before,” the Bears GM continued. “My feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all. I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. Love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we’re at right now. I thought we’d be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you. In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I’ve always believed — and always will — that we take care of our homegrown talent.”
But according to Rapoport, the Bears’ offer –or offers — to Smith have been ones the linebacker has found to be insulting.
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Rapoport: Smith’s Offer Was Backloaded
Poles says he and the front office thought they had a deal put together that would make Smith a happy man.
“With this situation, we’ve shown respect from a very early timeframe,” Poles said about negotiations with Smith. “With that said, there’s record-setting pieces of this contract that I knew for a fact — I thought — was going to show him the respect he deserves. And obviously that hasn’t been the case.”
According to Rapoport, the offer the Bears made had more money on the back end of the contract and it also “included proposed de-escalators that not a single player out of the 94 non-QB, $15M+ contracts has. He was offended.”
Thus, if what Rapoport tweeted is true, it’s likely Poles structured an extension that had one or more bonuses attached to performance. De-escalators come into play when certain stats or performance expectations aren’t met, and Smith wants guaranteed money, so that’s likely a point of major contention.
Poles Makes His Intentions Clear
“Right now my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team,” Poles told the media. “And we’re going to take it day by day. At the end of the day, we’ve got to do what’s best for this organization. But my intentions are to make sure Roquan Smith’s on this team.”
Smith was on the sideline during the team’s Family Fest on August 9, just hours after his trade request went public, and there’s certainly ample reason to believe a deal will eventually get done.
But it’s clear Poles will have to pony up first. Still, it was wise of the first-year GM to address the issue instead of ignoring it.
Smith has been named a second-team All-Pro in each of the last two seasons, and he has established himself as one of the best young inside linebackers in the NFL. In 61 career games, Smith has accumulated 523 total tackles, 17 passes defensed, five interceptions, 14.0 sacks and 43 tackles-for-loss.