Bears GM: Team Intends To Extend Roquan Smith

Roquan Smith made some waves Tuesday morning by sending out a trade request. Hours later, the other key party in this negotiation — Bears GM Ryan Poles — responded by indicating Smith is still in the team’s plans.

The rookie GM said the intention still is to sign Smith, via the Chicago Sun-Times Jason Lieser (on Twitter), though Poles said he has to “do what’s best for the team.” Smith has been extension-eligible since January 2021, but the former top-10 pick is still tied to his fifth-year option salary ($9.7MM).

My feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” Poles said, via The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (on Twitter). “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we’re at right now. I thought we’d be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you.

“In terms of our philosophy in the front office, I’ve always believed that we take care of our homegrown talent. We pay them and we take care of them.”

Poles is not ruling out a trade, Lieser tweets, but that is not the new Bears boss’ goal here. It would, however, be consistent with an offseason of change in Chicago. In his first months as GM, Poles has largely dismantled Chicago’s once-formidable front seven.

Khalil Mack is now a Charger, being traded for second- and sixth-round picks, and Akiem Hicks is a Buccaneer, having signed with Tampa Bay after Chicago did not make a known effort to retain him in free agency. Poles also cut longtime starters Eddie Goldman, who has since retired, and Danny Trevathan. Robert Quinn may still loom as a trade candidate, though the defensive end said recently he does not wish to be dealt for a third time.

Smith has accused the Bears of not negotiating in good faith, having reportedly received a backloaded offer that would be “bad for the LB market.” Poles offered a counter of sorts, indicating there are “record-setting pieces” within the Bears’ proposal. Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year contract currently tops the off-ball linebacker market.

With this situation, we’ve shown respect from a very early timeframe,” Poles said. “With that said, there are record-setting pieces of this contract that I knew for a fact, I thought was going to show him the respect that he deserves. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case. With that said, we can’t lose sight that this isn’t about one player. My job is to build a roster that is going to sustain success for a long period of time.”

The Bears still have Eddie Jackson around from Ryan Pace‘s batch of defensive extensions, but the rest of the group that helped Chicago rise to a top-five defense is gone. Matt Eberflus appears to have a fixer-upper on his hands, with the Bears’ offseason not making it a secret the team is rebuilding.

But the Bears have nearly $19MM in cap space and do not have many known long-term cornerstones or high-end contracts on their roster. Smith, 25, would certainly profile as a building-block player. Although the fifth-year inside linebacker has no Pro Bowls on his resume, he is a two-time second-team All-Pro. The Bears could also extract some value for the Georgia product in a trade, though that would leave the team quite thin at linebacker. A subsequent Quinn trade would require a near-full-scale rebuild along Chicago’s front seven.

Trade requests, of course, do not always precede trades. The 49ers’ Deebo Samuel saga is the latest negotiation to produce an extension following a trade request. The 49ers also had a Samuel franchise tag in their back pocket. Unless the Bears are prepared to carry a $20MM Smith cap charge on their 2023 books come March, with on- and off-ball linebackers grouped together on the tag, they do not have such a luxury. That raises the stakes for this summer’s negotiations a bit.

Cowboys To Bring Back K Brett Maher

The Cowboys’ Tuesday kicker workout has concluded, and it will lead to a transaction. The team will circle back to Brett Maher, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Dallas’ kicker from 2018-19, Maher spent last season with the Saints. Kicking in eight Saints games last season, Maher lasted longer than New Orleans’ other batch of Wil Lutz replacements did last season. And the Division II product will attempt to secure a second Cowboys stint that lasts into the regular season. Maher went 16-for-18 on field goal tries during his eight-game Saints run — one that ended in February when the team released him.

To make room on their 90-man roster, the Cowboys are waiving rookie Jonathan Garibay. The Texas Tech UDFA struggled during training camp. Tuesday’s transactions will bring about a competition between two inexperienced 30-something specialists. Both current Cowboy kickers have kicked in Canada. Hajrullahu, 32, played in the CFL from 2014-19; Maher, also 32, did so from 2013-16 and again in 2018.

Maher, who joined Matt Ammendola and Cole Murphy in Tuesday morning’s workout, will vie with Lirim Hajrullahu to succeed Greg Zuerlein as the Cowboys’ kicker. Dallas cut Zuerlein in March, leading him to the Jets. The team initially cut Maher back in 2019, signing Zuerlein not long after, but the parties will link up again.

Maher, 32, did not kick in 2020, though he remained a workout-circuit fixture, but his late-2010s Dallas tenure was one of the more memorable short kicker stints in recent memory. Maher’s 63-yard field goal as a Cowboy in 2019 represents a team record. He made two other 60-plus-yard tries, making him the only kicker to boot three field goals from beyond 60 yards in NFL history. The Cowboys, however, ousted him after he made 66% of his 2019 attempts (20-for-30).

NFL Approves Rob Walton As Broncos Owner

Rob Walton‘s $4.65 billion bid for the Broncos has led to his officially becoming the franchise’s owner. At a Tuesday owners’ meeting, Walton’s Broncos acquisition received approval. Owners unanimously voted to approve Walton’s purchase, Roger Goodell said.

The Walmart heir now becomes the NFL’s richest owner — by a gargantuan margin. Walton’s approximately $70 billion in net worth is more than triple the NFL’s previous richest owner. His Broncos purchase nearly doubled the previous NFL record of $2.3 billion — set by Panthers owner David Tepper in 2018.

This transition ends the Bowlen family’s run as NFL owners. Pat Bowlen, who bought the Broncos in 1984, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. Seven of the franchise’s eight Super Bowl berths came under Bowlen’s leadership. But the late owner’s battle with Alzheimer’s led to the Broncos being put in the Pat Bowlen Trust. The NFL at one point was behind Bowlen’s youngest child, Brittany Bowlen, taking over eventually, but a squabble between other Bowlen children ended up scuttling that plan. The Broncos went up for sale in February, and Brittany recently stepped down from her post inside the organization.

Walton’s daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner, are expected to run the day-to-day Broncos operations. Walton, 77, should be expected to be the team’s representative when owner votes are required. The Walton ownership group has swelled in recent weeks as well. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton have signed on as part-owners, joining Starbucks CEO Mellody Hobson in that capacity. Walton’s group has spoken with Peyton Manning about a possible role — a long-rumored scenario — but nothing definitive has emerged on that front yet.

This marks one of the most pivotal offseasons in Broncos history. Their new coaching hire (Nathaniel Hackett) will obviously play a major role in how the team fares in the near future, but the trade for Russell Wilson and the transition to Walton as owner represent bigger-picture moves for the organization.

Walton’s deep pockets will probably come into play regarding Wilson’s guarantee — one almost certain to venture into nine-figure territory. Walton’s approval also could lead to Wilson extension talks taking place this year. That matter could be tabled to 2023, but with more than a month between Walton’s transition and Week 1, the door is open for the Broncos to begin discussing a monster Wilson re-up.

Jets’ Mekhi Becton Expected To Miss Season

AUGUST 9: More official word has come down on Becton’s injury. He suffered an avulsion fracture of the right kneecap, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of (on Twitter). The injury, Becton’s second kneecap issue in less than a year, is expected to sideline the former first-round pick throughout the season. Becton will receive a second opinion Wednesday, but it looks like he will be out until 2023. Robert Saleh also conceded Becton will not play this season. The Jets have Brown on their radar, and the 14-year veteran is interested in a deal.

AUGUST 8: It’s gone from bad to worse for the Jets and right tackle Mekhi Becton. According to SNY’s Connor Hughes (on Twitter), Becton suffered a knee cap and patella injury that is expected to sideline him for at least a “chunk” of the 2022 campaign, if not the entire season.

According to Aaron Wilson (on Twitter), Becton suffered a “small chip-sized fracture” in his surgically repaired right knee. The lineman is set to undergo more tests to determine the true extent of his injured knee, but according to Hughes, the Jets are “bracing for the worst.”

The former first-round pick exited Jets practice today with the injury, but there wasn’t any initial cause for concern. Trainers described the injury as “stable,” and the MRI was merely precautionary and intended to confirm the original prognosis. However, that MRI ended up showing that the injury was far more troublesome than initially believed. In fact, there’s fear that Becton may have suffered additional damage beyond the knee cap and patella injuries, per Hughes (on Twitter).

This is poor timing for both Becton and the Jets. The lineman had already lost out on the left tackle competition to George Fant, but it sounds like the Jets were still committed to their former first-round pick as their right tackle. Ahead of an offseason decision about his fifth-year option, this was going to be a pivotal third year for Becton. The 11th-overall pick in the 2020 draft, Becton showed his potential in 14 games (13 starts) as a rookie. He suffered a dislocated kneecap and MCL damage during Week 1 of the 2021 campaign, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

Assuming the subsequent MRI confirms the Jets’ concerns, the front office may need to hustle to add a replacement. Backup Conor McDermott is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, and Chuma Edoga has yet to live up to his third-round billing through his first three seasons in the NFL. The Jets hosted Duane Brown last week, and while he left New York without a contract, ESPN’s Rich Cimini tweets that the veteran tackle is still on the organization’s radar. According to Hughes, the Jets already had Brown take a physical and meet with coaches, so it might not take long for the organization to ink the free agent to a contract.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Mills, Eagles

The Giants continue to entertain the prospect of Brian Daboll not calling plays when the season opens. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka will hold that responsibility in the team’s preseason opener Thursday, via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. Working behind Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy as Chiefs quarterbacks coach, Kafka was not in a play-calling position in Kansas City. The former NFL backup QB also was not expected to be a play-calling OC, with Daboll being at the controls for Josh Allen‘s star turn. Daboll has not ruled out calling plays himself, but this matter being uncertain entering the preseason is an interesting development for the team.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Just before their preseason slate, the Commanders are making a staff change. Ron Rivera announced the firing of defensive line coach Sam Mills III. Assistant D-line coach Jeff Zgonina will move up, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (on Twitter), with assistant DBs coach Brent Vielselmeyer set to help out. Mills, 44, has been with Rivera throughout his coaching career, beginning with the Panthers — the team with which his late father, the recently inducted Hall of Fame linebacker, retired — in 2005 and staying on for Rivera’s nine-season tenure (2011-19). Rivera brought Mills with him from Carolina in 2020, and the latter headed up a defensive line that did plenty to spark the team’s surprise playoff run that year. Rivera (via Jhabvala, on Twitter) described the separation as having to do with this offseason and training camp, rather than previous years’ performance.
  • Darius Slayton has gone from the Giants‘ 2019 and ’20 receiving leader to a trade candidate to a player in danger of being waived. While it should not be ruled out another team trades for the contract-year wide receiver, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes it would be a surprise if Slayton was on the team’s 53-man roster (subscription required). Slayton was not receiving many first-team reps during the offseason, when much of Big Blue’s receiving corps was battling injuries, showed where this could be headed. He has continued to be a second- or third-teamer at camp. If cut, the former fifth-round pick will surely generate waiver-wire interest.
  • Darnay Holmes appears to have seized command of the Giants’ slot cornerback competition. Competing with third-round rookie Cor’Dale Flott, Holmes has taken every first-team rep at the position during camp, Duggan adds. Their configuration could change during the preseason, but the Giants look set to go with Holmes, Adoree’ Jackson and 2021 third-rounder Aaron Robinson at corner.
  • Jeremiah Washburn has been working as an Eagles coach and executive for a bit now, and this rare combination has since come with a promotion. Washburn is now in charge of Philadelphia’s edge defenders, being named the team’s defensive ends and outside linebackers coach. He was previously a senior defensive assistant. Washburn remains the team’s player personnel director. Alex Tanney is also rising up the Eagles’ staff, moving from the quality control level to the team’s assistant quarterbacks coach.
  • Cowboys national scout Drew Fabianich left for a job at Auburn recently, Ian Rapoport of tweets. He will become the SEC program’s general manager and director of football scouting and development. Fabianich was with Dallas for nearly 20 years.

Jason Kelce To Undergo Elbow Surgery

Jason Kelce took a bit of time this offseason before deciding he wanted to continue his career. The Eagles have their All-Pro center back in place, but they will be without him for the time being.

The veteran snapper is undergoing elbow surgery, Tim McManus of tweets. While a surgery occurring this close to the regular season would seem to put Kelce’s Week 1 availability in jeopardy, McManus adds (via Twitter) it is realistic the 12th-year blocker will be ready for the Eagles’ opener. That said, Kelce is currently without a timetable. This surgery happened Tuesday, McManus tweets.

This being described as a routine cleanup-type procedure should be good news for Eagles fans, as should Kelce’s run of availability. The likely Hall of Fame candidate has not missed a game since the 2014 season. This ironman streak may encounter some turbulence ahead of the season, however.

Kelce, 34, obviously served as a critical cog in the Eagles’ 2021 turnaround, a stretch in which the team pivoted to a run-oriented attack and mounted a playoff push. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing in Nick Sirianni‘s first season. They did this without guards Isaac Seumalo or Brandon Brooks being healthy. Lane Johnson also missed four games in 2021, with Jordan Mailata being sidelined for three. Kelce’s durability over the years has certainly helped an otherwise injury-prone Eagles O-line. Kelce has been the NFL’s first-team All-Pro center in four of the past five seasons.

Big on O-line fortification, draft-wise, the Eagles continued to prepare for Kelce’s eventual departure this year. The team drafted Cam Jurgens in Round 2. While 2021 second-round pick Landon Dickerson ended his college career as the center on Alabama’s latest national championship squad, he has become a starting guard in Philly. Jurgens is on an early track to be Kelce’s successor. The team’s current second-string center will be in line for a few weeks’ worth of additional work ahead of what could be Kelce’s final season.

Mutual Interest Between Jets, Duane Brown

Mekhi Becton‘s latest setback leaves the Jets vulnerable at tackle, and while the team let Riley Reiff join the Bears after hosting him on a visit, it may not be prepared to pass on Duane Brown.

The former Texans and Seahawks tackle remains on the Jets’ radar, after visiting the team Saturday, and Jeremy Fowler of notes (via Twitter) mutual interest exists between the parties. Other teams have shown interest in Brown, but he is waiting for a satisfactory offer.

[RELATED: Becton Dealing With Serious Knee Injury]

A 14-year veteran, Brown spent the past four-plus seasons as the Seahawks’ left tackle. Seattle selecting Charles Cross ninth overall closed Brown’s Pacific Northwest path, but the Jets appear to loom as a needy suitor. Becton’s injury news may well drive up Brown’s price. The team is believed to have an offer out, with SNY’s Connor Hughes noting (on Twitter) the ball is in the player’s court here. Other teams’ interest, which Hughes also confirms, and Becton’s injury are undoubtedly complicating matters for the Jets.

The Jets have George Fant preparing to play left tackle for a second season. That would position the former Seahawks backup for a potential windfall in 2023 free agency or via a Jets extension. With Becton’s career at a crossroads, Fant would seemingly become a higher Jets priority. Brown, 37, coming in and relocating Fant to the less lucrative right side would be an interesting development, especially considering the two were Seahawks teammates. Brown has been a left tackle throughout his career, making five Pro Bowls at the position. One of those came last season, albeit as an alternate.

But the Jets are now in need of a starting-caliber tackle. They considered Ikem Ekwonu at No. 4 overall but went with Sauce Gardner instead. Fant’s experience on both sides, having started opposite Becton at right tackle in 2020 and then moving to the left side opposite Morgan Moses, should prove valuable here. Moses signed with the Ravens this offseason. With Becton out of the picture, former third-round pick Chuma Edoga (12 career starts) is working as the team’s first-string right tackle, Rich Cimini of tweets.

Bears LB Roquan Smith Requests Trade

Roquan Smith‘s hold-in effort has taken a turn. The standout linebacker does not appear on the cusp of being extended and is instead requesting to be traded from the Bears.

The fifth-year defender put out a statement (via’s Ian Rapoport, on Twitter) indicating the Bears have failed to negotiate in good faith and do not appropriately value him. Noting he has not yet spoken with the McCaskey family during his extension talks, Smith pins the blame on a new Bears regime that has attempted to “take advantage of me.”

This request stems from the Bears submitting a “take it or leave it” offer that would be “bad for myself and the entire LB market,” Smith adds, and Rapoport notes the team’s backloaded proposal contains de-escalators and does not top Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year Colts contract (Twitter link). The linebacker market moved last year, when Leonard and Fred Warner‘s deals came in above Bobby Wagner‘s previous positional record.

Both Leonard and Warner — each part of Smith’s draft class, though their non-first-round statuses made them priorities a year ahead of Smith — are signed to accords north of $19MM per year. Like Wagner, Smith is not believed to have an agent. A family member has advised him during the Bears’ negotiations. The Bears chose Smith eighth overall in 2018, and their defense is now short on veteran contracts.

Smith is coming off a season in which he played all 17 Bears games and made a career-best 163 tackles. Despite playing off the ball, Smith has 14 career sacks as well. Pro Football Focus, however, rated Smith outside its top 60 off-ball ‘backers in 2021, interestingly rating his run defense as far inferior to his coverage performance.

Smith’s accolades do not match Leonard’s or Warner’s, complicating these negotiations. But he is undoubtedly pushing to join those standouts atop the linebacker market. Earlier this summer, Ryan Poles said a new deal before the season was not a lock but indicated discussions ahead of camp were on tap. The former top-10 pick has upped the pressure on the rookie GM. Smith, who is on the Bears’ active/PUP list, is currently tied to a $9.735MM fifth-year option salary.

A zero-time Pro Bowler but a two-time second-team All-Pro, Smith is one of the final veterans standing from a top-tier Bears defense. The team traded Khalil Mack, cut Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman and let Akiem Hicks leave in free agency. Robert Quinn was linked to wanting a trade earlier this offseason, and while the veteran now seems somewhat out of place on what has become a rebuilding team’s defense, he said late last month he is not seeking to be dealt. But Quinn has already signed two big-ticket deals. Smith, 25, is seeking his first veteran contract.

Considering the salary cap’s stabilization, after 2021 brought just its second-ever reduction, Smith almost certainly would not accept a deal south of C.J. Mosley‘s $17MM-per-year accord. That sits third on the linebacker spectrum, with the Seahawks shedding Wagner’s contract in March. The Bears would have the option of the franchise tag in 2023, though that route is not as clear-cut as it is with most other positions. Since outside and inside linebackers are grouped together on the tag, the position carried the second-highest tag price ($18.7MM) this year. That lofty figure limits the Bears’ options with their extension-seeking middle ‘backer.

The Bears are carrying more than $18MM in cap space, placing them in the top 10 for available funds. They are also eating more than $57MM in dead money, with previous Mack restructures responsible for much of that figure. Smith’s trade request comes a year after Allen Robinson detailed frustrations about his negotiating efforts with the Bears, though Smith’s frustrations lie with new front office personnel.

The Georgia product said he wanted to stay with the Bears throughout his career but does not “see a path back to the organization.” With Smith one of the only foundational pieces left on Chicago’s defense, the ball will be in Poles’ court for the time being.

Latest On 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo continues to practice on the sideline as the 49ers front office continues to seek a trade for the veteran QB. However, assuming a trade doesn’t materialize, the 49ers may be willing to wait until the last second to move on from their former starter. Per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, the 49ers may wait to release Garoppolo to prevent him from acclimating with a new team…particularly the Seahawks.

Garoppolo’s contract doesn’t become guaranteed unless he’s on the roster for the first game of the 2022 campaign. As a result, the 49ers could truly wait until the Tuesday before their season opener to release the QB, allowing the organization to create an immediate cap savings of $25.55MM. If they release Garoppolo between September 6 and September 10, they’d owe him a game check worth $1.34MM, which is still a minor fee to prevent him from immediately going to, say, a division rival.

As Barrows notes, the last thing the 49ers want to do is release Garoppolo, watch him sign with the Seahawks, and allow him to “get acclimated and become the starter early in the season.” For what it’s worth, the 49ers play the Seahawks in Week 2. Assuming Garoppolo is released before Week 1, there would still be a week for the QB to prepare for a start with Seattle. However, in this scenario, there’s a better chance Seattle rolls out one of Geno Smith or Drew Lock for that division showdown.

If a deal doesn’t materialize, could the 49ers look to rework Garoppolo’s contract instead of cutting him? Unlikely, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic, who could only envision the 49ers committing to the QB if Trey Lance or Nate Sudfeld suffer an injury. Garoppolo has one year remaining on his contract, with a non-guaranteed salary of just over $24MM.

While it isn’t much of a surprise, it sounds like the quarterback has mentally moved on from San Francisco. According Barrows, Garoppolo was offered the chance by the 49ers to attend meetings with his fellow QBs, but he declined. Throughout this ordeal, there haven’t been any hints of tension between the two sides, and Garoppolo’s decision to stay away from meetings makes sense when he could better spend his time physically preparing for the upcoming season.

Lions Sign OL Kendall Lamm

Kendall Lamm is heading to Detroit. The Lions announced that they have signed the free agent offensive tackle.

Despite going undrafted in the 2015 draft, Lamm has put together a respectable seven-year career. He spent the better part of those seven seasons with the Texans, where he started 24 of his 55 appearances. He spent a pair of seasons in Cleveland before joining the Titans last August.

The 30-year-old ended up seeing time in 12 games (one start) for Tennessee last season, and he pretty much split his playing time between offense and special teams. Lamm didn’t play enough snaps to qualify for Pro Football Focus’ rankings, but his score would have ranked toward the bottom of the OT list. However, the site was much more favorable of his performances in 2020 and 2019, and despite his ugly 2021 score, he still earned a solid grade in run blocking.

The Lions don’t have a whole lot of offensive tackle depth behind starters Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. Lamm will be competing with the likes of Dan Skipper, Matt Nelson, and Darrin Paulo for backup reps.

Meanwhile, the Lions announced that they’ve placed offensive tackle Zein Obeid on the reserve/retired list. Obeid is now the third member of Detroit’s 12-man UDFA class to retire.

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