There’s good news, sort of, regarding the Bears’ impasse with No. 8 overall draft pick Roquan Smith.
According to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears finally have conceded that the Bears won’t void Smith’s future guarantees if the league suspends him for violating the rules regarding the use of the helmet. However, the Bears haven’t gone far enough to get the deal done.
The Bears still want to be able to void future guarantees if Smith is suspended for something that happens on the field beyond the confines of a play — a late hit, a fight, physicality that occurs while a player is defending himself against an attack by an opponent, inadvertent contact with an official, or anything else that could prompt the league office to impose a suspension that is later upheld on appeal. Smith’s camp, per a league source, wants Smith to be protected against the team having the ability to wipe out guarantees over a suspension arising from one hit or one post-play brouhaha.
To their credit, the Bears deftly have couched this dynamic as a “behavior clause,” which makes the Bears sound fair and Smith’s agents seem unreasonable. But the behavior in question happens on the field during a game. It’s one thing for a player to be suspended for PEDs or illegal drugs or a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy. In those cases, the guarantees should void. But if a player ends up being suspended because of something that happens on the field in the heat of the moment and in blink of an eye (and there’s been an uptick lately in those kinds of suspensions), the team shouldn’t be allowed to then carry in its back pocket a license to later cut the player and stiff him out of his guaranteed pay.
Moreover, it’s unclear whether the Bears have fully given in as to the potential voiding of guarantees for a suspension arising from a violation of the still-vague helmet rules. The Bears possibly haven’t yielded much at all on this point, with only limited revisions as to the team’s discretion when exercising its right to void guarantees.
So while the Bears have move a little as to suspensions arising under certain rules that apply between the snap and the whistle, it’s still not nearly enough. Nothing that happens while the player is in uniform and working on behalf of the organization should be used to void guarantees, regardless of whether the Bears try to call it “behavior” or anything else that makes the event that would trigger a voiding of the guarantees sound far more worse than what it is: A football player on a football field doing football things.