Bears linebacker Roquan Smith missed nearly three weeks of training camp due to a fight over the specific circumstances that would result in his future guarantees being voided. The Bears proposed broad language that would have voided guarantees if, for example, Smith had been suspended for violating the new helmet rule or for getting into a fight while defending himself or a teammate. Smith and his agents refused to accept this broad term.
A compromise finally has been reached.
Per a source with knowledge of the deal, the two sides agreed to a specific formula that gives Smith protection against most of the potential incidents that would arise while he is in uniform and on a football field. As to anything that could happen during a play (for example, lowering the helmet, unnecessary roughness, illegal hit on a defenseless receiver, roughing the quarterback), Smith’s guarantees void only if the league office imposes a suspension of three games or more.
Smith can be suspended one or two games for a violation of the rules that apply during a given play with no consequence to his future guarantees. He can be suspended one or two games multiple times with no consequence to his future guarantees. Smith loses the guarantees only if a suspension of three or more games is imposed on him. (Over the last decade, that’s happened to only one player: Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.)
As to a potential suspension arising from something happening after a play, Smith’s guaranteed money will not void if he’s suspended for one game for an incident that occurs while defending himself or a teammate. While it’s possible that a disagreement could emerge — and an arbitration may be needed — as to whether Smith was or wasn’t the aggressor in a given situation, the Bears yielded on their prior position that they should have discretion to decide whether to void guarantees based on a post-play incident. Instead, Smith’s guarantees will void only if he’s suspended two games for a post-play infraction, or if he’s deemed to be the aggressor as to an incident resulting in a one-game suspension.
In the end, the Bears found a way to keep the possibility of voiding the guarantees in play, and Smith received enough protection to make the possibility of an actual voiding of the guarantees unlikely. So it’s a win-win. The only loss is that it took so long to get to this point.