CHICAGO – As the Bears traveled to Soldier Field for the first time during training camp, Ryan Poles made his way in front of the media for the second time in that span.
He was up at the lectern on Tuesday morning to discuss the trade request brought by Roquan Smith, which he made in a statement to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport. This comes as negotiations between the linebacker and general manager for a new contract continue ahead of the 2022 season.
So will Poles honor that request? Not so fast.
“Right now, my intentions are to sign Roquan to this team,” said Poles during a quick news conference at Soldier Field after the team’s annual Fan Fest practice at their home venue. “We’re gonna take it day-by-day and, at the end of the day, we’ve got to what’s best for this organization.
“But my intentions are to make sure Roquan Smith is on this team.”
At the moment he is, remaining under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract that will pay him $9.735 million in 2022. Smith has started camp on the PUP list with what so far is an unspecified injury, though there were reports that he might “hold-in” before that official designation was placed on him.
So far during training camp, Smith hasn’t participated in on-field workouts but has attended other team activities. The linebacker was on the sidelines for the Bears’ practice at Soldier Field on Tuesday morning.
In his trade demand letter, Smith mentioned that the new regime doesn’t “value” him and has failed to negotiate “in good faith.” Despite the words, Poles remains steadfast in his desire to keep the team’s leading tackler for the last four seasons in Chicago.
“My feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” said Poles of Smith. “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid, love what he’s done on the field, which makes 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 I always will believe that we take care of our homegrown talent. We pay them, we take care of them, and we take care of them for what they’ve done and what they can become in the future. With this situation, we’ve shown respect from a very early time frame. With that said, there’s record-setting pieces of this contract I thought that was going to show him the respect that he deserves, and obviously, that hasn’t been the case.”
Smith is representing himself in the negotiations, choosing to do so without an agent, which Poles admitted makes the situation “difficult.” This comes as the general manager has made major changes to the roster that saw a number of players from the previous regime leave the team.
“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,” said Poles. “At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears.”
For him, that includes Smith being there.