Chicago Bears: Poles resolves one contract faceoff, faces another one

Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Chicago Bears begin training camp, general manager Ryan Pace faced some contract problems. He ended one but still faces another.

A general manager’s job is never done. Recently, I wrote about some of the hiccups Ryan Poles, Chicago Bears general manager, faced as he took over the job. Despite those hiccups, he has the team on the right track.

Well, his challenges continue to give him headaches. As the Bears begin training camp, there are still some contract disputes he has to deal with.

First, there is rookie safety Jaquan Brisker. He had yet to sign his contract. There were details about the guaranteed money he should receive in his third year.

The Washington Commanders gave Phidarian Mathis, who was chosen just ahead of Brisker, $111,000 in guaranteed money for his third season. Tyquan Thornton, picked two selections after Brisker, received no guaranteed money for his third season.

Brisker wanted to get paid somewhere in the middle, but both sides were far apart on how much it should be.

Brisker decided that he would hold out, not reporting to camp when the rookies reported on Saturday. He reportedly was ready to hold out as long as it took to get the right amount.

The other contract dispute dealt with the team’s best player, linebacker Roquan Smith. Ironically, Smith also had a dispute with the team that forced him to hold out his rookie season in 2018. He missed most of training camp before finally signing his contract.

Now Smith is in another dispute. He is playing on his fifth-year option. That means he is due for a new contract after the season. He was hoping for a new deal to be finished before the season started.

That looks more and more like it isn’t happening, though there is still some time. Smith hopes that holding out speeds up the process.

Well, Poles was able to resolve one problem. He and Brisker reportedly agreed on a deal that was agreeable to both sides. That means he’ll report to training camp on Tuesday with the rest of the team.

That’s a relief for the defense since Brisker is slated to be the starting strong safety. He needs as many reps as possible so he can be ready for Week 1 and beyond. During the offseason camps he performed well and the coaches have raved about him.

The deal with Smith, however, isn’t as positive. The NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport reported that Smith would not report when all the veterans are supposed to on Tuesday and won’t attend training camp when it begins on Wednesday.

Smith believes he hasn’t yet received an offer he would even consider. This one could take a while. We’ve already seen that Smith isn’t averse to holding out of camp.

This deal should be a priority for Poles and the Bears. As I mentioned, Smith is unquestionably the team’s best player. He is next on the long list of elite Chicago Bears linebackers. They need to ensure he remains in Chicago.

The problem is that it’s going to cost to keep Smith. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that his new contract should push $20 million per season. That’s a big chunk of change, especially for a team that’s starting another rebuild. However, Smith is exactly the player they need to build the defense around.

In head coach Matt Eberflus‘ defensive system Smith could thrive. When he was the Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Eberflus had Shaquille Leonard.

Leonard is currently the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL. Smith could have the same success with Eberflus in Chicago.

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Hopefully, this is a short holdout. If Poles does indeed feels this deal is a priority then he finds a way to keep his top player in a Chicago Bears uniform. Starting a rebuild and losing a young, elite player like Smith would not be a good thing for him or the team.