Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles remains optimistic the team can agree to a long-term contract with Roquan Smith and repair their relationship after the star linebacker requested a trade.
“First of all, he’s a good player,” Poles said Thursday. “That’s never changed. And he’s a good dude. I have faith that he’s gonna have a good year and we’ll work on our relationship and all that. It’s not even a bad thing, either. We’ve all been there, right? You have disagreements and you have to come back together and be teammates. That’s what I expect.”
Smith was hoping to strike a new deal with the contract he signed after the Bears drafted him with the No. 8 overall pick in 2018 set to expire following this season. He participated in voluntary and mandatory offseason workouts. But with negotiations at a standstill, things took a heated turn once training camp started.
Smith, who does not have an agent, opted to “hold in,” allowing him to attend meetings and practices without participating in drills. Tensions boiled over when he went public with a trade request. He accused Poles of negotiating in bad faith by giving him “take it or leave it” offers that would be “bad for myself, and for the entire LB market.”
The Bears opted not to trade him. Smith ended his hold-in and practiced for the first time on Aug. 20.
He said Wednesday there won't be any more negotiations prior to the opener on Sept. 11. And he said he wasn't thinking about possibly striking a deal to remain in Chicago after this year. The Bears could place the franchise tag on him following the next two seasons, all but ensuring he remains with them.
Despite the recent tension, Poles insisted the relationship can heal.
“It’s human nature," he said. "When things happen and two sides don’t agree on something, it’s gonna take a little time to do that. I got a lot of faith that that’s going to happen, and I’m excited for it.”
The standoff with Smith was one of the first big challenges for Poles as he tries to turn around a struggling franchise.
The Bears made major changes after going 6-11 and missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years. They hired Poles and coach Matt Eberflus to replace the fired Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
Poles spent the offseason overhauling the roster, most notably trading three-time All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. One thing he didn't do was load up the roster around quarterback Justin Fields, after the former Ohio State star struggled as a rookie.
The Bears are thin at receiver behind Darnell Mooney, who had 1,055 yards in his second season. They're counting on tight end Cole Kmet to take another big step and emerge as a red zone threat coming off a season with 612 yards — but no touchdown catches. And the offensive line remains a huge concern.
Poles said he understands concerns about the talent surrounding Fields.
“But at the same time, I’ve never gotten in the way from we have to try and build the entire roster,” he said. “I’m not going to overreach and do things crazy to get a name or anything. Our approach has been consistent from the draft all the way through. We’re going to continue to add talent all around, the best that we can. It might not be the name or a name that everyone wants to hear, but we’re going to develop the players that we have here.”
NOTES: The Bears placed WR N’Keal Harry (ankle surgery) on injured reserve with a designation to return and claimed WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette off waivers from Minnesota.
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