The 25-year-old linebacker has requested a trade, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
In a lengthy statement provided to Rapoport, Smith said the Bears’ new front office regime “doesn’t value me here.” Smith has been trying to work out a contract extension since April, according to his statement, but the Bears have been “trying to take advantage of me.”
“I have officially requested a trade; just writing these words is deeply painful,” Smith wrote.
In the final year of his rookie contract, Smith is slated to make $9.7 million this season, according to OverTheCap.com. He has been sitting out practice during training camp as he awaits a new contract. He has been present at meetings and along the sidelines at practice, including Tuesday when the team practiced at Soldier Field. The team placed him on the physically unable to perform list with an undisclosed injury when camp began.
Smith – who doesn’t have an agent and is representing himself – noted in his statement that he wanted to remain a member of the Bears. He took pride in being a “HOMEGROWN Bear!” and said it was “a dream came true” when the team drafted him. He embraced the linebacker history in Chicago, mentioning the legacies of Wilber Marshall, Mike Singletary, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Dick Butkus.
“I wanted to be a Bear for my entire career, help this team bring a Super Bowl back to our city,” Smith’s statement read. “However, they have left me no choice than to request a trade that allows me to play for an organization that truly values what I bring to the table.”
Smith noted that he hasn’t spoken with team chairman George McCaskey, but said that maybe the McCaskey family “can salvage this.”
“As of right now I don’t see a path back to the organization I truly love,” Smith wrote.
Compared to some of his peers at the position, Smith is vastly underpaid. Indianapolis’ Shaquille Leonard and San Francisco’s Fred Warner – who were both drafted in 2018 along with Smith – inked extensions in recent years that were worth more than $90 million in total and more than $19 million per season.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles made an unannounced press appearance following Tuesday’s family fest practice at Soldier Field. He reiterated what he said two weeks ago, that he respects Smith as a player and a person.
“In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I’ve always believed – and always will – that we take care of our homegrown talent,” Poles said. “We pay them, we take care of them and we take everyone for what they’ve done and what they can become in the future. And with this situation, we’ve showed respect from a very early time frame and with that said, there’s record-setting pieces of this contract that I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves, and obviously that hasn’t been the case.”
Poles said his intention remains to sign Smith to a long-term extension, not to trade him. Asked about negotiating with a player who doesn’t have an agent, Poles called it “a unique situation.”
Smith has not spoken publicly since the spring.
According to Rapoport, the team offered a backloaded contract that wouldn’t make him the highest paid linebacker in actual salary. The deal included some sort of proposed de-escalators that aren’t common in a deal of this size. Rapoport noted that the deal “offended” Smith.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said he speaks with Smith nearly every day. He said he was disappointed that negotiations have come to this point.
“Things in this business happen,” Eberflus said. “There’s few things that surprise you. You take it for what it is and you move forward.”