New Bears general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus have run into their first big problem: Defensive end Robert Quinn, their most accomplished and highest-paid player, was a no-show for mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
Eberflus didn’t make it a big issue, but he also didn’t brush it aside.
‘‘We hoped he would be here,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘He’s not. Ryan and his staff are gonna work through that.’’
When asked whether Quinn’s absence was excused, Eberflus said flatly, ‘‘No, it’s mandatory minicamp.’’
The Bears can fine Quinn each day up to a total of $95,877 if he misses all three practices. It’s an unnecessary headache during a time of year in which it should be easy to avoid any snags.
Quinn didn’t report for voluntary organized team activities during the last few months, but everyone seemed reasonably fine with that. At 32 years old and 11 seasons into his career, he said in April he was confident his own offseason workout program would be best, saying, ‘‘This is not my first rodeo.’’
Eberflus responded in May by acknowledging Quinn’s credentials, but he said he wished he had opted in for OTAs.
Quinn has been enigmatic throughout his career, so it’s not immediately clear why he would skip minicamp. He has been rumored to be in trade talks since January, but Poles has indicated he is part of the Bears’ plan for this season. Quinn also said in April he didn’t want to go anywhere else.
Quinn’s agent didn’t respond to a message about why his client skipped minicamp.
‘‘It’s Rob,’’ safety Eddie Jackson said with a shrug. ‘‘He’s been in the league for a while. I’m sure he has his reasons. We’re just waiting on him to come back.’’
Throughout the offseason, Quinn has seemed to be on board with the new administration. He expressed excitement in February about Eberflus moving the team to a 4-3 defense that would shift him from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end. He also rejected the idea that a player of his age and stature wouldn’t want to be part of a rebuild.
Quinn said his reaction to the turnover at Halas Hall was, ‘‘Hopefully my résumé or my production from last year gives me a little weight to keep my foot in the building.’’
If the Bears aspire to be even somewhat competitive this season, Quinn would help significantly, especially given that the team offloaded Khalil Mack for draft picks. He set the franchise record with 18œ sacks last season and earned his third Pro Bowl selection.
The only other player on the roster who has put up more than six sacks in a season is Trevis Gipson, who had seven last season. And the other projected starter, Al-Quadin Muhammad, has 11 career sacks in five seasons.
Still, there’s always the financial side. Quinn has three seasons left on the five-year, $70 million contract he signed when Ryan Pace ran the Bears and will carry their largest salary-cap hit this season at $17.1 million. If the Bears cut him, they would absorb dead-cap hits of $4.2 million this season and $8.5 million in 2023 and get out of the remaining $39.9 million they would owe him through 2024.
That said, Poles already has stripped the roster of enough bad contracts to set the Bears up to enjoy an NFL-high $99.7 million in salary-cap space for 2023. Quinn is one of only three players with a cap hit of $10 million or more. The Bears can afford him.
If Quinn skips Wednesday and Thursday, it’ll be an annoyance to the Bears but not a huge problem — as long as he reports for the start of training camp in late July. If whatever friction there is between him and the team isn’t resolved by then, the Bears will have a major issue.