Poles wants to extend Roquan, but must do what's best for Bears originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CHICAGO — This isn't how Ryan Poles wanted his first big contract negotiation as Bears general manager to go. Ideally, he would have come to a quick agreement with Roquan Smith on a record-breaking extension, and that would be that.
That didn't happen as Smith requested a trade Tuesday morning after what the linebacker described as disrespectful negotiations with the Bears' new regime.
Poles wants Smith to be a Chicago Bear. The general manager made that clear Tuesday when he addressed the media hours after the request was made.
Poles reiterated his stance that the 25-year-old is part of the Bears’ future while noting that his job is to build the best roster possible, not just lock up Smith.
“I’ll double down on what I’ve said before: my feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” Poles said. “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I 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. We pay them, we take care of them, and we take everyone for what they’ve done and what they can become in the future. And with this situation, we’ve shown respect from a very early timeframe, and with that said, there’s record-setting pieces of this contract that I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves, and obviously, that hasn’t been the case.
“With that said, we can’t lose sight that this isn’t about one player. My job is to build a roster that’s going to sustain success for a long period of time. At the end of the day, we’ve got to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears.”
“We’re doing everything we can to get this done.”
Smith is set to earn $9.7 million this season, the final year of his rookie contract. He reported to training camp but was placed on the PUP list as negotiations continued. He’s looking to reset the linebacker market, which would have him make $20 million annually and at least $100 million in total.
As things stand on Aug. 9, Poles wants Smith to be a Bear for the long haul. But he fully admits that things don’t always work out that way.
“Right now my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team,” Poles said. “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.”
The optics of not respecting and paying your best player can be damaging for a front office, especially one that could enter into negotiations with three other budding stars — Jaylon Johnson, Justin Fields, and Darnell Mooney — in the coming years.
Poles is aware that perception is important and wants it known that, from his point of view, the Bears’ offer was one fit for one of the best linebackers in football.
“Like I said, when we engaged and we brought it, we brought it,” Poles said. “And I thought there was a lot of respect in where we’re at right now. But obviously that’s not good enough for him and his party. But I feel like we showed respect and showed value for what he is as a football player and what he can become.”
Smith represents himself, and Poles noted that makes negotiations difficult. Emotions get in the way, leading to statements like the one issued Tuesday, illustrating just how dire the situation is for Poles and the Bears.
Still, Smith showed up at Soldier Field on Tuesday, where the Bears practiced on Family Fest day. That Smith showed up hours after he made his request tells Poles one thing.
“I think he wants to be a Chicago Bear,” Poles said before exiting the interview room.
It's up to Poles to mend fences and make that a reality.
If he can’t, Roquan Smith might have played his final game in a Bears uniform, and Poles' reign as GM will be off to an inauspicious start.