Hub Arkush: The price of poker potentially just went way up for Roquan Smith

  • Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58) questions during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 29-27.

    Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58) questions during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 29-27. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/10/2022 7:29 PM

There are a number of good reasons that 98 to 99% of NFL players are represented by professional agents in negotiating their contracts. There's really only one good reason to not do that.

Fees for representation can be all over the board depending on the caliber of agent you hire and the variety of services they provide, but you'll find a large plurality, if not a solid majority, in the 5% commission ballpark.

 

A $1 million deal could cost $50,000, a $50 million deal ... 2.5 million bucks or more, and I don't care how much money you make -- that's an awful lot of cash.

A handful of recent stars have done their own deals and saved the vig, so to speak, including Bobby Wagner, DeAndre Hopkins and Laremy Tunsil -- who've received very solid reviews for the contracts they negotiated -- and Richard Sherman and Russell Okung -- whom most experts believe may have left significant money on the table.

Note, however, only Tunsil was doing the all-important first-round draft pick second contract.

So why shouldn't a player do it himself?

Would you hire a landscaper to sell your house, a lawyer to paint it or a painter to represent you in a lawsuit?

The current NFL collective bargaining agreement is 456 pages, and no one without a deep knowledge of it should be doing an NFL contract.

The NFL salary cap has so many wrinkles that each of the 32 teams has a chief capologist whose job is to know it backwards and forwards, and how to best structure and fit every single contract under it.

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That is whom you're negotiating against.

How much of an expert can we assume Roquan Smith is in those two areas?

His decision to go public Tuesday may have been strategic, but the words he chose were offensive and insulting to his negotiating partners, and allegedly said because they hurt his feelings and insulted him with their offer.

One thing is absolute in high stakes financial negotiations: nothing is ever personal, and when you let it become personal, you are no longer in the driver's seat.

It is Bears GM Ryan Poles' job to get the best players he can for the lowest possible prices, period. In doing so, he must detail why a player isn't worth as much as he thinks he is.

It is the agent's job to shield his player from that knowing it isn't personal.

But Smith, in sacrificing those guardrails, got his feelings hurt, and now he may have to pay the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Poles said something that fascinated me Tuesday: "I thought there was a lot of respect in where we're at right now. But obviously that's not good enough for him and his party.

Who or what is Roquan's party? Is it possible he was advised or pushed into some of his unfortunate word choices Tuesday?

Wednesday, the Bears fired back, announcing Smith has been removed from the Physically Unable To Perform list.

Prior to being on PUP, he could not be fined or punished for not practicing.

While the CBA is vague on whether just being present protects him from the standard fines for holding out -- up to $40,000 a day for not practicing and 1/18th of his 2022 base salary for any exhibition game missed -- there is little doubt the Bears can fine him at some level if he is present and able but refuses to practice.

And a new wrinkle in the current CBA: Teams used to be able to waive these fines if a deal got done, but no more -- if the fines are issued, they must be paid.

Did Smith know and understand all this before all his "Monopoly Money" turned to real greenbacks?

What do you think?

Without seeing the offers actually on the table, I have no idea if there is a clear right or wrong here, but at the end of the day, money talks, so this suddenly very messy separation can still be salvaged.

But what looked like an obvious fait accompli a month ago now looks 50-50 or worse to end in divorce.

I am not a fan of sports agents in general. But why anyone would attempt and risk a $60 million, $80 million or $100 million deal within their grasp, with little or no experience in getting the best deal done, is a mystery to me.

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