Things only got worse and more complicated in the latest development in a smoldering impasse between the Chicago Bears and Pro Bowl linebacker Roquan Smith.
This is in the wake of the NFL Management Council sending a note to any teams alleging that a person not licensed as an agent by the NFL Players Association has been in contact with other teams regarding a possible trade for Smith.
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The NFL is having trouble with Roquan Smith’s agent
The memo says the person is Saint Omni. Omni is a veteran financial advisor who has advised other NFL players who have represented without an agent. Players are allowed to seek financial advice from outside advisors in contract talks, as Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will not have a formal agent.
The memo said: “That a person named Saint Omni, who is not an NFLPA-certified agent, is contacting clubs and stating that he is representing Roquan Smith, who is signed to the Chicago Bears. Mr. Omni is prohibited from negotiating player contracts or discussing potential business on behalf of any NFL player or prospective player, or assisting or advising in such negotiations.”
And the memo reminded all teams of the rules for talking to non-agents or a player’s other representatives, including agents.
Obviously, if it was the Bears who informed the NFL that they had an issue with formal or informal trade talks being conducted by Smith’s advisor, it will hurt the relationship between the team and Smith’s camp.
What are the rules for trade talks?
“Unless a potential club has received written approval from the employer club, engaging in discussions with a player or his agent about your club’s interest in acquiring the player, through trading or otherwise, constitutes a breach of the anti-tampering policy.” it in the memo.
“Under no circumstances should a prospective club rely on any written or oral representation from a player or his agent that he has been given permission to participate in talks regarding a trade or contract. A prospective club should also not rely on a letter from the employers’ club to the agent or player granting such permission, as employers’ clubs normally reserve the right to withdraw permission at any time and may have already done so.
“Written approval must be obtained directly from the employers’ club. Any employer who chooses to grant permission to a player or his representative to seek a trade with another club, whether or not that permission extends to the commencement of contract negotiations in relation to a trade, may appeal to the Board for appropriate wording to protect the rights of the Employers’ Club.
“Under no circumstances should an employer give verbal permission to a player or his representative to see a trade or enter into contract negotiations with another club.”
Smith has already requested a trade
Smith, who is due $9 million this year in the final year of his rookie contract and was previously represented by Todd France, is definitely due for a significant pay rise.
The Bears and Smith were already wide apart in contract negotiations as their offer was back-loaded, according to league sources, with much of the compensation coming later in the contract and it also included de-escalation clauses not typically included in major deals.
Smith, who has officially requested a trade, wants to become the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, surpassing Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard’s five-year, $99.2 million, $52.5 million guaranteed contract signed last year.
Smith doesn’t practice in a classic “hold-in” that has become a trend in NFL contract disputes. He was recently activated by the team.
Whether the gap can be closed is difficult to say, but things are not looking good at the moment. A league source predicted this dispute will continue into the season.
What is not in question is Smith’s ability. He is a distinguished linebacker who has recorded 524 career tackles, five interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 14 sacks in 61 career games since he was drafted eighth overall from Georgia in 2018.
Smith is a hard-hitting, versatile, and athletic linebacker who is not currently compensated at a level that reflects his status as one of the top defensive players in the NFL. That may change, but the Bears and Smith must be united for that goal to be met.
what the bears say
Bears general manager Ryan Poles recently opened up about Smith’s situation.
“I will repeat what I said before. My feelings about Roquan haven’t changed at all,” said Poles, who was hired this offseason after previously working for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I think he is a very good football player. i love the child I love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we are right now. I thought we were in a better position, to be perfectly honest with you. In terms of our front office philosophy, I have always believed and will always believe that we look after our native talent.
“We pay them. We care about them and we take everyone for what they have done and what they can become in the future. And with that situation, we showed respect very early on and having said that, there are record-breaking parts of this contract that I thought would show him the respect he deserves and he obviously didn’t was the case.”
This quickly became a frustration and a battle of wills between the Bears front office and one of the better players to play for Chicago in recent years.
Smith is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022 after recording 163 tackles, three sacks and an interception last season. The Bears could of course name him their franchise player, but it’s hard to imagine that happening given the tenor of this unfinished affair between the NFC North franchise and one of their most talented players.