What Bears taking Roquan Smith off PUP means for contract talks

·3 min read

What Bears taking Roquan off PUP means for contract talks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Roquan Smith is no longer physically unable to perform. What that means for his contract negotiations remains to be seen, but it appears the Bears are turning up the heat after the star linebacker’s trade demand Tuesday.

Smith reported to camp at the end of July and was placed on the PUP list with an ailment found during his intake physical. Whether that ailment was contractual in nature is unclear, but it’s fair to assume the Bears placed Smith on the PUP list as a show of good faith. By being placed on the PUP list, Smith was not subject to fines for not participating in practice.

In removing Smith from the PUP list and deeming him healthy to practice and play in preseason games, Bears general manager Ryan Poles now has the option to flex his financial muscles.

With Smith having passed his physical per the NFL’s transaction wire, the Bears now have the option to fine Smith $40K per missed practice and one game check ($572K) per missed preseason game. These fines are mandatory for a player that is not physically present.

In the CBA, it's unclear if those numbers are the same if a player is physically present but choosing not to participate. If Smith remains a hold-in, the fines will be up to the Bears.

The Bears are not mandated to fine him. Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and Diontae Johnson weren’t fined by their respective teams during contract hold-ins.

But by taking Smith off the PUP list, Poles now has that arrow in his quiver after Smith made his gambit Tuesday.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Smith is not expected to practice regardless of his PUP status.

As each side moves their respective chess pieces around the board, it’s worth noting the Bears have the contractual leverage in this situation.

Smith can’t sit out the whole season. If he does not play a minimum of six games by his own choice, his contract freezes, and his service time will remain at four years.

Poles was adamant Tuesday that he planned to extend Smith. The Bears general manager said there were “record-setting” parts of the Bears’ offer to Smith, and they believed it showed the 25-year-old linebacker the respect he has earned.

Smith clearly disagreed.

So, the linebacker went public with his trade request, choosing the path with the most drama.

Poles appears to have countered by removing Smith from the PUP list and bringing fines into play.

The Bears are in a tough spot with Smith. He’s their best player and will be a crucial part of head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. He’s also 25, with four years of tread on his tires, and will be on the decline by the time Poles’ rebuild gets the Bears back to contention.

It’s good business to reward your best players. It sends a good message to other stars coming up for contract extensions and shows players around the league that you value talent.

But the Bears have a lot of holes on their roster and paying an off-ball linebacker, even an elite one, $20 million per season might not be best for the long-term rebuild.

The Bears and Smith are currently at a stalemate. We’ll find out Thursday if Smith practices and if Poles intends to use the leverage he has now that the linebacker is off the PUP list.

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