Roquan Smith's contract impasse over behavior clause as well as … – Chicago Tribune

In an effort to end the contract impasse with first-round draft pick Roquan Smith, the Bears conceded they won’t go after his guaranteed money if the linebacker gets suspended under the NFL’s new rule legislating helmet contact, the Tribune has learned.

The Bears made this concession even before the recent public disclosure of the major sticking point, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. They are one of eight NFL teams willing to include contract language protecting a first-rounder’s guaranteed money if he’s suspended for an illegal hit, a source said.

But Smith remains away from training camp because his representatives at CAA Football have insisted the Bears go even further and include contract language protecting the player from discipline for behavior outside the realm of a football play. The Bears’ reluctance to do so revolves around their fear of setting a precedent for future contracts and has nothing to do with concerns about Smith’s character, the source said.

The growing urgency as training camp opened two weeks ago compelled the Bears to approach Smith’s agents to say they were willing to compromise their original position on the helmet issue as have other teams such as the Bills, Jets and Giants. The teams acquiesced because of the widespread ambiguity in interpreting the NFL’s new rule legislating helmet contact and prohibiting “using any part of a player’s helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent.’’

The Bears initially balked at excluding all such language — as coach Matt Nagy’s comments Saturday in Bourbonnais indicated — but eventually compromised their position because it pertained to a football play. And such plays also were rare: NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said only three plays out of 40,000 reviewed during the 2017 season would have resulted in an ejection under the newly adopted guidelines.

A source familiar with negotiations said the Bears never intended to default Smith’s guarantees over a football hit and the team introduced its 2017 experience with Danny Trevathan as evidence. Trevathan served a one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams, but the Bears never tried to recoup money.

CAA has declined to comment on Smith’s contract negotiations. The Bears also declined to comment.

Part of the Bears’ motivation to find common ground with CAA was their strong desire to get Smith, the No. 8 selection, into camp and ready for Week 1.

Now the urgency is increasing. Smith possesses the explosiveness and athleticism to start immediately. The frustration over Smith’s continued absence defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expressed Tuesday has been felt throughout the organization. Smith is the only one of the 256 players drafted in April who has yet to sign his contract, making the Bears the target of widespread criticism.

But only four teams in the league have written contracts going as far with protections as Smith seeks, a source said. The other 28 have avoided setting such contractual precedent, perhaps out of a fear of unintended consequences. It’s not a common demand, according to one longtime agent who has negotiated NFL deals.

The Bears open the exhibition season Thursday in Canton, Ohio, against the Ravens on national television. Smith won’t attend, but the Bears hope this is the last game the linebacker will miss.

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