Barring what Lovie Smith's agent calls an "unforseen breakthrough," the Chicago Bears coach expects to return for the 2007 season without a new contract.
Frank Bauer, Smith's agent, told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that talks between the team and coach were at a "stalemate."
"We're not close, we're not encouraged and based on where talks have gone recently, Lovie will be a free agent after next season," Bauer said on Wednesday night.
Smith has one year remaining on his original contract. He was the league's lowest-paid coach at $1.35 million in 2006 and will remain No. 32 on the paylist at $1.45 million in '07.
Smith suspended contract talks shortly before the playoffs when he led the Bears to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1985 after a 13-3 regular season. Negotiations picked up shortly after the Bears lost to the Colts in the championship game, but Bauer said there were significant gaps on the contract terms between management and the coach.
"It would take an unforseen breakthrough for this to get done," Bauer said. "And we are being more than reasonable in this market."
Coaches that have taken their teams to the Super Bowl, even in a losing effort, are making at least $5 million per year, such as Carolina's John Fox.
The Ravens just signed Brian Billick to a four-year extension. The deal, with one year left on his current contract, is valued at $28.5 million over the next five years, a league source said.
Chris Mortensen is an NFL analyst for ESPN.