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Why NFL players hold-in and what it means for Bears’ Roquan Smith, Chargers’ Derwin James

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Bears linebacker Roquan Smith continues to “hold-in” as he seeks a recent contract or a trade from Chicago. 

The 25-year-old Smith has attended every spring workout, voluntary veteran minicamp, OTAs and mandatory veteran minicamp in June. He’s even been present throughout training camp, but has yet to take part in practice. 

“Hold-ins” like Smith’s have made headlines this preseason as several NFL stars have employed the tactic in an effort to land recent deals. Los Angeles Chargers DB Derwin James is currently “holding-in” while Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson declined to participate until he and Pittsburgh agreed to a three-year extension. James’ situation emulates 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel and Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf, who each held-in before getting their contracts.

But what’s a “hold-in” and why are players seemingly employing this tactic greater than the normal holdout fans have seen through the years?

The Athletic’s staff explains below:

What’s a hold-in?

A hold-in, unlike a holdout, is when a player who’s unhappy with their current contract still continues to attend team practices but as a substitute of working with the team, they as a substitute work off to the side, either by themselves or with players rehabbing from injury.

How do Smith and James’ contracts compare to their peers?

It’s hard accountable Smith or James for his or her stance given they’ve been two of the perfect defenders within the league at their respective positions since being drafted.

There’s little question Smith is among the many top five inside linebackers within the NFL. Smith’s maximum contract value currently stands at $18.5 million. The highest six inside linebackers carry the next maximum contracts, via Spotrac:

  • Shaquille (formerly Darius) Leonard: $98.5 million
  • C.J. Mosley: $85 million
  • Zach Cunningham: $58 million
  • Deion Jones: $57 million
  • Eric Kendricks: $50 million
  • Bobby Wagner: $50 million


(Photo: Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today)

James currently ranks 30th amongst safety contracts within the league, maxing out at $12.4 million. Eight safeties hold contracts maxing out north of $50 million:

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick: $73.6 million
  • Jamal Adams: $70.6 million
  • Kevin Byard: $70.5 million
  • Marcus Williams: $70 million
  • Harrison Smith: $64 million
  • Justin Simmons: $61 million
  • Budda Baker: $59 million
  • Eddie Jackson: $58.4 million

You may argue Smith belongs among the many top three linebacker salaries, while James should slot in somewhere amongst those eight safeties. 

How have the Bears handled the Smith situation?

The Bears’ situation with Smith has created an ideal storm.

It’s not so simple as what’s happening in Los Angeles with James or in Pittsburgh last yr with T.J. Watt. It’s a first-time general manager in Ryan Poles who has to concentrate on the precedent he’ll set with this contract. Moreover, Smith has decided to represent himself, making negotiations and communication very difficult.

Then all the things got here to a head when Smith put out a trade demand through NFL Media last week, and harshly criticized the team in doing so. Poles got here out that day to clarify that while he desires to re-sign Smith, he has to do what’s best for the Bears. Things took one other turn when it got here out Monday that Saint Omni had been reaching out to other teams to gauge trade interest, something that isn’t allowed.



(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire)

The Bears put Smith on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start out camp. The day after his trade demand, they activated him, but is not going to confirm whether or not he’s been fined. Smith has been at nearly every practice, understanding off to the side with the injured players and along the sideline during team drills. He was on the preseason opener. Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday that Smith is engaged, and he’ll travel with the team to Seattle.

How have the Chargers handled their negotiations with James?

Publicly, the Chargers have been very supportive of James during his hold-in.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley has repeatedly stated the importance of getting these negotiations right for James, and he has often praised James for his leadership and patience despite missing the primary 14 practices of coaching camp. James has been with the team each day. He’s participating in meetings and understanding together with his teammates at the ability. He has been on the sphere for walkthroughs with the starting defense before every practice, and he has been going through agility drills with the Chargers’ sports performance staff during practice.

“It’d be one thing if he wasn’t here,” Staley said Tuesday. “But we see him each day.”

There is no such thing as a apparent tension between James and the team. Between the team and James’ agent, David Mulugheta? That could be a barely different story.

How will this be resolved with the Bears and Smith?

Despite the acrimony that has been created, it’s still hard to see the Bears not re-signing Smith. They need him for his or her defense and he is usually a foundational piece of what Poles and Eberflus wish to construct. And this might be Smith’s best spot to receive a lucrative contract extension. However it might take all the best way until Week 1 to fix things and get a deal done.

How will this be resolved with the Chargers and James?

A deal has to get done before the beginning of the season. James is simply too necessary to the Chargers’ defense. The organization cannot afford for James to miss even one game, considering how much pressure there’s to win in 2022.

Ownership spent plenty of money within the offseason to overhaul the defensive roster, including the trade for Khalil Mack, when the Chargers converted among the edge rusher’s base salary into an up-front signing bonus. To be that aggressive within the offseason, just for the team’s best defensive player to miss time over a contract dispute? That just doesn’t match up. One side of going to should budge. And it looks like James has more leverage in this case.

(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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