Bears linebacker Roquan Smith returned to practice Saturday, participating in game for the first time since his “hold-in.” He agreed to play out his contract before joining free agency in March.
Smith, who is guaranteed $9.7 million this season on his fifth-year option, wanted a long-term contract. When negotiations didn’t go his way, Smith asked for a trade.
“I thought (the process) was very unpleasant to say the least,” Smith said Saturday, via team video. “It was not what I had planned, nor what I expected from the situation. . . . Now I’m focused on the season and being the best teammate I can be for these guys in the locker room. This is the last year of my contract. I’ll take it and run with it and bet on myself. Negotiations are over for now. »
Smith does not have an agent, trading in his own name. He said the teams hadn’t come close, prompting him to rip general manager Ryan Poles in a public letter Aug. 9.
“I see myself at a certain number, and they see me at a certain number,” Smith said. “We couldn’t agree. We can agree to disagree. But, hey, I would never take a bad deal like I pretty much said, I would never take a deal that I don’t think is worth what I’m worth. . . . It wasn’t a number I needed or wanted.
Smith understands the Bears could use the franchise tag on him in 2023, and he also understands how important the season is to him now that he didn’t get his contract.
“Obviously the talks haven’t gone too far,” Smith said. “They didn’t end the way I wanted them to end. It’s going to be a big season for me. At the end of the season there are a lot of different directions things could go, so I know I have to put myself and my body in the best possible position for the team. I feel like with the time I have, it will be enough time for me to prepare for the season.
Smith has 524 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, 17 pass breakups and five interceptions in four seasons.