LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- After a breakdown in contract negotiations and after his trade request was denied, Bears star linebacker Roquan Smith announced Saturday he intends to halt discussions on a long-term deal and play out his final season under contract in Chicago.
The 25-year-old Smith returned to practice with the Bears on Saturday afternoon at Halas Hall, marking the end to a contract hold-in that he hoped would lead to a lucrative new deal. Instead, Smith didn't get the contract offer he sought, and he found the negotiating process to be emotional and frustrating.
“I thought it was very distasteful to say the least,” Smith said of the contract negotiations. “It wasn’t what I anticipated, nor was it what I expected from the situation. But I’m grateful for all the loyal fans, the players in the locker room and the city of Chicago that stood behind me throughout this process. It means a lot to myself. Now, I'm just shifting my focus to the season.
“It’s my last year of my deal. Hey, I'm just going to take it, run with it, bet on myself like I've always done, and the negotiations are over right now.
“I’m betting on myself.”
Smith had been conducting a contract hold-in throughout training camp, joining the Bears during meetings and off-field activities while observing practice from the sidelines. He was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 10, one day after he publicly requested a trade from the Bears in a statement on social media.
In his statement, Smith claimed the Bears' new regime had "refused to negotiate in good faith" and "doesn't value" him in Chicago. First-year general manager Ryan Poles has stated his intention on multiple occasions for Smith to remain with the Bears. The team didn't fine Smith for his absence from practice.
Smith is due $9.735 million in fully guaranteed salary in 2022 as part of the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. He has elected to work without an agent, choosing to represent himself in negotiations with the Bears.
Smith didn't regret working without an agent, he said.
“It was just more so not coming to an agreement when I feel like I have busted my ass so long here and not being rewarded with something I thought was rightfully deserved,” Smith said.
“It just shows you how the game is, how it goes.”
Last Monday, the NFL Management Council sent a memo to all 32 teams informing them not to engage with an individual by the name of Saint Omni, who claimed to be representing Smith's interests in seeking a potential trade. Asked about his involvement with Omni, Smith responded he's an advisor who has "his best interests at heart."
Smith declined to reveal the specifics regarding his contract hopes but admitted the goal was to reset the market for an off-ball linebacker. Colts star Shaquille Leonard currently has the top contract at their position with a five-year, $99.25-million deal that he signed last August.
The No. 8 overall pick in 2018, Smith recorded a career-best 163 combined tackles along with 12 tackles for a loss, three sacks and an interception last season. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2023, though the Bears could retain him through the franchise tag.
During his first practice of training camp, Smith worked as a limited participant during what Bears coach Matt Eberflus said would be a "ramp-up" period. The team believes Smith on track to play in its season opener against the 49ers on Sept. 11 at Soldier Field.
After ending the negotiations, Smith has his sights set on what’s ahead for his final year under contract with the Bears.
“My full intention is to play this season and whatever happens happens,” Smith said. “Whatever it is I have to go through this season, I'll do it chin up, chest out, sunsets, no regrets, baby.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.