BOURBONNAIS — When inside linebacker Roquan Smith decided not to report to training camp with his fellow rookies July 16, he was one of seven top-10 picks yet to sign his contract.
When Smith was absent from practice Thursday, only one other first-rounder — Jets quarterback Sam Darnold — remained unsigned.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace claimed last week that such stalemates were commonplace around the NFL. Clearly, that is no longer the case.
Still, coach Matt Nagy said the Bears appeared to be moving closer to an agreement, in part because of the momentum of the other signings.
“I think we may be,” he said. “I do know that from the numbers on down, there might be only two guys left, so I have no doubt in my mind that good things will happen, and I feel good about the whole thing.”
There has been little to feel good about thus far. Smith wowed the Bears during the offseason program and showed why the team drafted him No. 8 overall to eventually be the quarterback of the defense. But his absence has cost him six full-team practices and 11 days at Olivet Nazarene University. Nine of the Bears’ likely 11 defensive starters know the defense from last year. Smith does not.
“The good thing is, his being able to be there for the OTAs, he knows what he has, so he’s able to be at home going through his assignments,” Nagy said. “But it’s totally different from being out here for live reps, and he knows that. He’s aware of that.
“[Pace] said it before: It’s part of the process. But at the same time, too, you are missing out on those reps these other guys are getting.”
Smith’s salary is set by the collective-bargaining agreement. He’s set to make $18.5 million over four years, with a fifth-year team option. The Bears and Smith’s agents continue to negotiate over the finer details of his contract. Common disputes center around cash flow of a signing bonus or offset language, which dictates how much money a franchise owes its player if it cuts him and another team signs him.
Having other first-round picks signed typically hastens an agreement — the sides use players drafted nearest their player for a template.
Nagy said the Bears haven’t considered what day Smith would need to arrive in order to play in the Aug. 2 Hall of Fame Game. The Bears are thin at the position — Danny Trevathan has yet to practice because of a hamstring injury, and rookie Joel Iyiegbuniwe has been out since Saturday with a shoulder problem.
Trevathan has been in communication with Smith during camp, as have other teammates.
“I don’t worry about it at all,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “I know he’s going to get a handle. I just know he’s ready to play.”
With the season opener 6½ weeks away, Bears players aren’t concerned about Smith’s ability to prepare for the Packers.
“He’s a great kid,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “He’s a remarkable athlete, a remarkable talent. There’s a reason he was drafted so high.”
Still, business is business.
“You just really, as a player, if it’s not your situation, you kind of keep your nose out of whatever business relationship is going on with another player,” Hicks said. “Hopefully they get that figured out because everybody here wants him to be here. I know I want him to be here. You just let those things shake out, and however it comes, it will come eventually.
“There will be an answer.”
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