The Roquan Smith holdout marches on for the Chicago Bears. Both sides appear deadlocked with fans begging for a resolution so they can finally just focus on football. Some are demanding the Bears just give him what he wants. Others are calling for him to be kicked to the curb and forgotten. Rather than trying to find the solution, perhaps a better question to ask is how far will Smith likely take this thing?
To answer that, it’s best to look at how things played out with defensive end Joey Bosa two years ago. Why him?
Bosa is the closest comparison we can possibly make to this situation for a couple reasons. He was the top defensive player drafted at his position in 2016. He’s also represented by the CAA agency, the same group that Roquan Smith signed with earlier this year before entering the draft. Bosa offers the best roadmap for how this holdout is likely to go.
Before getting into the details, it should be stressed how well GM Ryan Pace has handled this situation. The Chargers did not do that two years ago with Bosa. It got so out of control towards the end that Bosa’s mother declared she wished her son had “pulled an Eli Manning” to force a trade elsewhere. The team also fanned the flames when they publicly revealed one of their last offers to defensive end. A clear PR move that came across as petty.
Pace has worked diligently to keep things friendly in the media, calling it a “process” that they’re trying to work through. Since then its been relatively quiet. Yes, Smith remains unsigned but the controversies are at a minimum. So based on how things went with Bosa, what should be expected?
Roquan Smith will likely sign right before the regular season
For missing training camp and preseason, the financial hit for Smith isn’t too bad. Under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookies can be fined $30,000 for each day of missed team activities, be it camp or games.
“Under the NFL’s new rookie wage scale, players who hold out can be fined $30,000 per day. That means players drafted in 2011 who are now able to negotiate new deals have a large disincentive to holdout; the team has all the leverage until there is a serious threat of losing that player.”
Training camp began on July 21st and ends August 11th. That encompasses 11 practices and two preseason games. That would be a $390,000 fine all told. Throw in the additional three preseason games they’re expected to play and that’s $450,000. Will this also include missed practices during the weeks leading up to those games? Possibly.
A typical game week would involve three full practices and a walkthrough. So conservatively that’s another six practices missed, which is another $180,000 lost for a total of $630,000. That’s a lot of money but in the grand scheme? It’s actually not.
It isn’t until the regular season where the holdout can prove especially costly.
Smith will lose game checks if holdout persists
Where the loss will be especially felt is when the actual games begin. Smith is projected to make a little over $18.7 million across four years. That’s an average of $4.675 million per season. For each of the 16 games, Smith could miss in 2018, he would be fined somewhere in the vicinity of $292,187. Keep in mind these are rough estimates, but still. Almost half of what he might lose from missing all of training camp and preseason. For one game.
So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Bosa ended up signing his contract on August 29th of 2016. That was 10 days before the official kickoff of the regular season. He didn’t mind paying the few hundred thousand dollars to get the best language possible in his deal. It was risking the expensive game checks where he had to draw the line.
Given Smith is represented by the same people and is the highest drafted player at his position this year? It stands to reason he’s following the exact course Bosa charted. The 2018 NFL regular season begins on September 6th when the Eagles host the Falcons in Philadelphia. Ten days before that would be August 27th. Three days before the Bears’ final preseason game against Buffalo.
One should expect, presuming nothing bad happens before then, that something will get done around that time.