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Holdout over: Roquan Smith to sign with Bears

Roquan Smith was taken with the No. 8 pick in this year's draft. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

The Bears and Roquan Smith neared an agreement on the inside linebacker’s rookie contract Monday that will end a 29-day impasse over wording in his contract.

The team has yet to announce a formal signing, but it’s only a technicality. Smith is expected to meet the media Tuesday after the Bears practice at Halas Hall.

Drafted No. 8 overall in April, the Georgia alum and the Bears had been stuck over whether the Bears could take away his contract guarantees over on-field actions that would lead to a suspension. The two sides moved closer to a deal in recent days, with Smith in Athens, Ga.

The last rookie to sign his contract, Smith is expected to make $18 million over the life of his four-year deal, per the NFL’s wage scale. The Bears hold a fifth-year option they must exercise before the start of his fourth season.

Smith was the only Bears rookie not to sign with the team before its rookie minicamp. He did not report with his fellow rookies to training camp, and did not participate in either of the Bears’ two preseason games. The Chargers’ Joey Bosa had a 31-day standoff two years ago, which remains the record for a rookie standoff since the collective bargaining agreement went into effect in 2011.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (left) presents Georgia’s Roquan Smith with his Bears jersey during the first round of the NFL Draft in April. | AP Photo/David J. Phillip
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (left) presents Georgia’s Roquan Smith with his Bears jersey during the first round of the NFL Draft in April. | AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Bears travel to Denver on Tuesday afternoon. They will hold two joint practices before playing each other in an exhibition game Saturday. It’s unclear if the team will deem Smith ready to face an opponent, be it in practice or Saturday’s contest. At the least, Smith would play in the Bears’ fourth preseason game against the Chiefs — it’s considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Sunday, Bears coach Matt Nagy said Smith was risking his opening-day performance by not participating in practices.

“You’re playing at that position and there are a lot of calls that go on, very similar to a quarterback, there’s a lot going on,” Nagy said. “But I have full confidence in (defensive coordinator) Vic (Fangio) and his staff that, when he does get here, they’ll get him up to speed and whenever that is, we’ll see. But again, that’s why we all get paid as coaches is, to try to help our players out as much as possible. And that’s kind of where we’re at.”

The Bears’ Roquan Smith, John Timu, and James Daniels (left to right) stretch during practice at the NFL football team’s OTAs in May. | Charles Rex Arbogast, AP photo
The Bears’ Roquan Smith, John Timu, and James Daniels (left to right) stretch during practice at the NFL football team’s OTAs in May. | Charles Rex Arbogast, AP photo

Bears players had stayed in contact with Smith throughout training camp. They said they offered their support to him while his agents at CAA negotiated with the Bears. The two sides had settled a dispute over potential suspensions because of the league’s new use of helmet rule, but argued over other details as camp wore on.

Smith now must try to claim the team’s starting inside linebacker job alongside Danny Trevathan. Third-year linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski had a solid training camp in his place.

Trevathan said Sunday that the biggest challenge affecting Smith upon his return would be communication.

“You’ve got to get out here and get that aspect. … ” he said. “You kind of need that feel to be comfortable with the people you’re in and calls to be made sometimes, but we’ll get him right when he gets here.”

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