Camp Notes: Brisker Signs, Smith Holding Out, No Word on Quinn, Raise a Glass for Walter Payton

The Bears nearly had a holdout in rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, and now GM Ryan Poles has his hands full with a disgruntled Roquan Smith. Here are your training camp bullets for Tuesday morning.

  • Issues with Smith’s contract have always been on the periphery, but the veteran linebacker seemed positive that he and the team would eventually reach a deal on an extension. Smith doesn’t have an agent, but he’s taken a firm stance. The 25-year-old won’t be participating in training camp when veterans report on Tuesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. Smith has yet to receive an offer “he would remotely consider,” so he will continue to wait for a more serious proposal before he considers taking the field.

  • In April, Poles hinted that Smith was due an extension without really saying so. In fact, he may want the star linebacker to show him something more this season. “If he’s the guy that I think he is, [a new contract] is something we have to address,” the GM said in April. “He’s a really good linebacker, and in this defense with Matt [Eberflus] and Alan [Williams], there’s a good chance he’s going to have a really good year. So …”
  • Colts star linebacker Darius Leonard, who played for Eberflus, set the market last year. He signed a five-year, $98.5 million extension, including a total guarantee of $52.5 million. His $19.7 million annual average leads all inside linebackers, according to Spotrac. Leonard is currently on the PUP list after offseason back surgery.
  • Smith’s market value is $88.12 million over five years. That would put him right behind Leonard and Fred Warner of the 49ers.
  • Bears fans love Smith and most of us believe he is the leader of this defense but he’s not viewed similarly by the league and many analytics sites. Smith has yet to be voted into the Pro Bowl, has never made first-team All-Pro, and the folks at Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 64 linebacker in the league. If Chicago’s front office sees things the same way – and don’t forget, last year they were all outsiders – it might be tough for Smith to get the extension he believes he deserves. For perspective purposes, PFF ranks Warner as the No. 4 linebacker with Leonard two spots behind.
  • There’s also a prevailing feeling that the coaching staff prefers Nicholas Morrow to lead their defense, and as the middle linebacker, he should.
  • The timing of Smith’s reluctance is odd considering he spent the weekend modeling the Bears’ new orange helmets and their 2022-23 uniform combinations.
  • The holdouts by Smith and Brisker are the biggest tests Poles has faced in his first year on the job. How the first-year GM handles the Smith situation will provide a great glimpse at how he intends to tackle extensions going forward.
  • Brisker and the Bears agreed to a four-year contract late Monday evening. The deal still has to be finalized, but the rookie safety will report to camp immediately.
  • The Bears raved about Brisker all offseason, and the plan is for him to be the Day 1 starter at strong safety. Brisker’s football IQ, tenacity, and ability to create turnovers have made him an instant favorite of Eberflus and his assistant coaches.
  • Don’t forget, starting running back David Montgomery is also playing in the final year of his rookie contract. The fourth-year back was not named as one of the top 16 running backs in the league by ESPN-plus analyst Jeremy Fowler, with the help of analyst Matt Bowen.
  • Montgomery had an off year in 2021, and running backs aren’t valued the way they used to be. That makes his potential extension a lot more complicated than Smith’s. It’s not hard to envision that this could be Montgomery’s last year with Chicago.
  • Oh yeah… nobody knows if Robert Quinn will report on Tuesday, either. The defensive end has been linked to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Rams in most trade rumors. Eberflus said he would leave it to Poles and his team to handle any potential absences. If Quinn doesn’t return to the Bears, Chicago’s front seven looks a lot less formidable, and they’ll have to rely on Trevis Gipson, Justin Jones, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Dominique Robinson to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
  • The progress of Justin Fields is the biggest storyline of camp and will continue to be all the way up to Chicago’s Week 1 tilt with the 49ers.
  • Veteran offensive lineman Michael Schofield has agreed to a one-year contract with the Bears. He’ll enter camp as Chicago’s starter at right guard, and he must have impressed Eberflus and Poles, who had the nine-year veteran in for a weekend workout.
  • The Bears released their latest episode of 1920 Football Drive, and heck, how do you not get amped for the season after watching? I loved seeing Cole Kmet hitting dongs at Wrigley Field.

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced three different plans with the common goal of keeping the Bears in Chicago. The three proposals consist of a domed option, an open-aired stadium with the option of adding a dome at a later date, and an option to modify the stadium to better suit soccer competitions while improving accommodations for concerts and other events.
  • In a response from the team’s PR staff, the Bears organization said “The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field.”

Five Things

  1. Fields has flashed brilliance this offseason and has earned high praise from his coaches and peers. Fans saw glimpses of the quarterback’s “it” factor in games against the 49ers, Steelers, and when they played the Packers at Lambeau Field in January.
  2. Despite what I wrote earlier about the valuation of running backs, expect the Bears to have a run-heavy offensive attack. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has hinted at it all offseason, but the Bears need to establish a strong running game to help their passing attack. Expect Montgomery to be a workhorse this season, and Khalil Herbert should get his share of touches, too. Matt Nagy repeatedly failed at getting Montgomery enough chances to run the football. I guess I could have just ended that sentence at “repeatedly failed.”
  3. The Cover-2 is back, and somewhere Lovie Smith is quietly saying that he was right all along. It’s still difficult to fathom that Smith was fired after leading the Bears to a 10-6 record in 2012. I know they didn’t make the playoffs that season, but the franchise has been a veritable shitshow since. I was never a fan of the 3-4, so I embrace the return to smashmouth, ball-hawking defense. Hopefully Brisker and Kyler Gordon have a little Peanut Tillman in them.
  4. Bears fans celebrated the birth of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton on Monday, and he would have turned 68 if he was still alive.
  5. By NFL rule, the Bears will not be able to go to full pads until August 1.

Camp Quotes

  • “Soldier Field remains an incredible asset for city residents and visitors. These proposed renovations allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come, allowing us to keep bringing sports, music, & other events to our world-class city.” – Lightfoot
  • “Though we participated in the mayor’s working group to reimagine the museum campus, Friends of the Parks is just seeing the design proposals and hearing about supposedly well-vetted engineering specs for a potential dome on Soldier Field. We previously had let the mayor’s office know that we could not come out in support of a dome, only in support of a feasibility study. Our position remains the same as it did upon the release of the “Where Worlds Meet” report: we expect that a real study of the feasibility of a dome on Soldier Field will lead to the conclusion that it is not feasible, whether because of cost, public pushback for a variety of reasons, and/or legal limitations to building on the lakefront.” – Statement from Friends of the Park


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