When someone bets on themselves and wins, the outcome is widely celebrated. When someone bets on themselves and loses, the result is rarely mentioned.
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith has decided to bet on himself, turn down a long-term deal with the Bears and enter the final year of his rookie contract.
So what’s the risk? To know that, we need to know the specifics of the latest offer the Bears made to Smith. And we also need to understand that Smith will not automatically be a free agent in 2023. The Bears can choose to apply the franchise tag to Smith. They can do it twice before the cost becomes ridiculously outrageous.
He will receive $9.735 million this year. He risks, especially given the position he plays, an injury that short-circuits his chance in the open market and/or the chance of getting about $20 million under the tag in 2023.
Without knowing where he walked from (and we haven’t been able to find that out so far), it’s impossible to know if he’s making the right decision. Without an agent to fully explain to him the risks of not accepting the best offer the Bears have made, Smith may not realize it would be in his best interest to take the deal.
That’s part of what a good cop does. There is a point where the negotiation ends. The broker looks at the offer, evaluates the risks and makes a fairly simple assessment: would I recommend my son to take this deal?
There is another complication when it comes to Smith’s situation. Since he doesn’t have an agent, it’s possible the Bears never put their last, best offer on the table. Last week, uncertified agent Saint Omni’s efforts backfired, with the league advising all teams that Omni had contacted other franchises to try and initiate a trade, without the Bears’ consent.
Anyway, Smith made the bet. He risks having his future earning potential implode, as he chooses to roll the dice for a little more than what the Bears would have paid. However, to win the bet, he may have to endure not only 2022, but also 2023 – and maybe 2024.
Is it fair? No. But it is the path that the employment contract creates for first-round selections. It can take up to seven years to hit the open market.
Perhaps the bears will adopt Mike Tomlin’s mantra. We want volunteers, not hostages. Or maybe they crouch on their rights and choose to tag Smith once and maybe twice, even if he wants out.
Either way, Smith would probably have been better off taking the Bears’ best offer, especially as he plays one of the more dangerous positions in football. Hopefully he realizes the full extent of the risks of the bet he is placing on himself.