Hub Arkush: Bears brass going gray yet over Roquan Smith’s holdout?

July 24, 2018

BOURBONNAIS – When the Chicago Bears arrived at their summer home in Bourbonnais last Thursday, a week earlier than at any time in recent memory thanks to their presence in this year’s Hall of Fame Game and sans top pick Roquan Smith, GM Ryan Pace’s attitude basically was, what, me worry?

Asked just how concerned he was about the Smith holdout, Pace told us, “We’re optimistic that he’s here soon.

“It’s really part of the process, and meanwhile we’re rolling forward with the guys that are here, and you know that chemistry and continuity is important.”

Was that last comment about chemistry and continuity a minor red flag?

Pace indicated otherwise, saying, “There’s not a set time, we know it’s a process,” and he went on to tell us he really wasn’t surprised.

Media, sportstalk radio and the great majority of Bears Nation, however, have spent a disproportionate portion of the past four days expressing concern, and by Monday, it was hard not to sense in head coach Matt Nagy at the very least a slight weariness with the question.

Asked if anything was new on the Roquan front, Nagy replied with a simple “not yet, not yet.”

Nagy was pleasant and seemingly quite neutral on the subject, and was clear from his perspective that at the moment there’s really nothing left to say — at least for now.

Let us be clear on the landscape here: For starters, were the Chicago Bears not the most efficient team in the NFL over at least the past decade in being the first or among the first to have all their draft choices signed, it’s unlikely there would be near as much discussion of the Smith holdout.

We also wouldn’t be talking about it near as much, if at all, if the Bears weren’t in camp a week early. Last Thursday marked exactly one year since Mitch Trubisky signed, but because camp was still a week away, Trubisky was not a holdout.

Of course there are some of you who want to automatically blame the team for Smith’s holdout under the old false narrative that the Bears are cheap, stubborn or both.

Beyond the fact the Bears have been one of the best at getting their players signed on time it is worth noting that as of my penning this column, there were six remaining unsigned first-round picks – Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Denzel Ward, Josh Allen, Smith and Terrell Edmunds —and all but Mayfield have the same agents, CAA.

And of course it was CAA that represented Joey Bosa two years ago in the first protracted holdout in a number of years.

If anything is clear, it is that Smith’s agents that appear to have an axe to grind.

Whatever is going on here is not on the Bears front office — and it isn’t about money.

Roquan Smith is not a Bear yet because his agents are fighting over how his bonus money will be paid and what the Bears will owe him if they cut him prior to the end of his fourth season.

This holdout will end — if it hasn’t by the time you read this — when Smith says to his agents, “enough, guys, I’m too good a player to not last at least four years in Chicago.”

At what point does his holdout become problematic? August 4, 2018, still a full 12 days off.

Although that would leave him with a somewhat-shortened “normal” camp by basically a week or so, it would give Smith three full practices to get ready for Cincinnati and allow him to play the normal schedule of four exhibitions that almost every rookie in the league plays.

Does his absence bother his teammates?

If anything, they’re jealous. They all know this is business, careers are short and every one of these kids should get everything they can out of any contracts they sign. While a few extra practices might help, the preseason is far too long as it is.

You want one example of that?

Why is anyone talking about this at all before most of the league has even opened camp?

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