Why Bears, Roquan Smith contract negotiations fell apart

Why Roquan Smith contract negotiations fell apart originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When Ryan Poles first took the job as the Bears new GM, he was confident that he would be able to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension with Roquan Smith. Obviously that deal never got done.

“We had a difference in value,” Poles said. “I’m not going to go into exactly where he slots (compared to other linebackers) and all of that, but at the same time, you want players to think highly of themselves. You want them to understand that they are the best at their position. I don’t fault him for that. But we had that conversation and obviously, it just didn’t work out.”

Saying “it just didn’t work out,” might be the understatement of the century. Smith acted as his own agent during contract negotiations, and was upset with how his contract conversations with Poles went. On Aug. 9 Smith took his grievances public and changed the tone of those negotiations. He wanted out of Chicago.

“Unfortunately, the new front office regime doesn’t value me here,” Smith wrote in a statement released by Ian Rapoport. “They’ve refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of this journey has been ‘take it or leave it.’ … They have left me no choice than to request a trade that allows me to play for an organization that truly values what I bring to the table.”

Poles addressed the media later that day and expressed his disappointment in Smith’s statement, but reassured that he still loved Smith both as a player and as a person, and he still planned on re-signing him. Poles gave his final offer to Smith before the season began, and Smith didn’t agree to the terms. The two sides decided to table extension talks until the following offseason.

From there, Poles’ thinking began to change.

“As we got started and through the season, it would be like, ‘All right, what am I comfortable doing?’” Poles said. “And then you also want to see thatー it’s a new staffー so you want to see how everything’s going to jell together. So at that moment, it wasー we got to today or this past couple of days and it was like, ‘All right. I think the best option for this team is to move forward.

“The reality of it is that you have to ask yourself a question: are we ever going to find that middle ground? From our previous conversations you gather that information and it felt like it was highly unlikely. So then are you able to then take the opportunity to enhance your roster now? Or are you OK with the chance that he walks away and we can’t use some of that to enhance our roster. That’s what it came down to and I felt like we had to move forward at that time.”

Poles has discussed the importance of compartmentalizing emotions when making business decisions, and trading Smith at the deadline was a business decision. But Poles admitted there was a part of him that was “bummed” he and Smith couldn’t come together on a new deal.

“This was a guy that I thought was going to be here for a long time. I felt like we put a lot of effort forward to get that done, and we came up short. We couldn't find common ground. And that's just a part of this business, which I think we all understand.”

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