(670 The Score) Bears star linebacker Roquan Smith’s aim in contract negotiations is to become the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network told the Parkins & Spiegel Show on Tuesday afternoon.
Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard – formerly Darius Leonard – is currently the highest-paid linebacker in the sport after inking a five-year, $98.5-million deal in 2021. That averages out to $19.7 million annually. Leonard’s contract includes $52.5 million in guaranteed money, which is the most at his position, according to Over The Cap.
Rapoport explained that the 25-year-old Smith wants more than that, for simple reasons.
“This is an ongoing negotiation with Roquan Smith representing himself, wanting to be highest-paid linebacker, obviously deserving to be the highest-paid linebacker because of what he’s done on the field but also because he’s next,” Rapoport said. “And that’s generally the way it works, honestly.
This has sort of been broiling.”
Smith is currently conducting a contract hold-in, reporting to Bears camp for meetings and such but sitting out of practice. On Tuesday morning, Smith released a statement through Rapoport requesting a trade out of Chicago. That spurred first-year general manager Ryan Poles to address the matter later in the day. Poles stood firm in his stance, noting that there are “record-setting pieces to this contract that I thought was going to show him the respect he deserves.”
Rapoport detailed why Smith is unhappy with the Bears’ offer – even if it does set a record when viewed through one perspective.
“The overall APY, it looked like a lot,” Rapoport said. “But in reality, it was a backloaded deal where maybe the last year of the deal was way higher than the rest of it, bringing up the average artificially. So it (the total sum the Bears have offered) is not sort of real money. I know there was a de-escalator clause, which is really rare and which he does not appreciate. The negotiating style of the Bears is something that sounds like he is extremely frustrated with.”
“It sounds like to me the Bears offer would put him there, but it’s not real money in that the last year is artificially high. So it would bring up the average and look like it’s a lot of money but would not actually make him the highest-paid linebacker. When you talk about these high-value contracts, it’s almost always the next great guy becomes the highest-paid. That’s just the way it works. So that all makes sense. The structure is such that it wouldn’t allow him to actually see the money that’s in the contract.”
Smith is in the fifth and final season of his rookie contract and set to make just shy of $9.4 million in 2022. He’s on track to become a free agent in 2023 if he doesn’t reach a long-term contract extension.
Smith earned second-team All-Pro honors from the AP in 2020 and 2021.