Chicago Bears End Salary Dispute By Trading Roquan Smith To Ravens

So much for the Bears being finished offloading talent after they traded Robert Quinn to Philadelphia last week. They made an even bigger subtraction from their talent base on Monday, dealing linebacker Roquan Smith, a team captain and arguably their best player, to the Ravens, and it makes you wonder if they’ll make another move or two before the Tuesday deadline.

The Bears are getting journeyman linebacker A.J. Klein and two draft picks for Smith — a second-rounder and a fifth-round — after getting a fourth-rounder for Quinn. They have accumulated nine picks for the 2023 draft, along with enough cap room to spend heavily in free agency.

This is the strategy the Bears were expected to follow when Ryan Poles replaced Ryan Pace as general manager earlier this year. But it’s still somewhat surprising they would trade a 25-year-old leading the NFL in tackles.

Smith and the Bears had been at loggerheads over a long-term contract extension. While the Bears had the ability to use a franchise tag on Smith for next season they decided to opt for a clean break.

Smith is earning $9.735 million this season under the terms of his fifth-year option. He had been seeking $20 million a season in negotiations with the Bears and demanded a trade when the talks stalled before training camp. Smith stayed off the field during camp in an unsuccessful attempt to motivate the team to end the impasse.

It has never been clear if Poles valued Smith’s play as highly as the Pace regime, which selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft. He has been the best player on a poor defense but despite piling up tackles did not grade out as a superstar.

Pro Football Focus currently ranks Smith 67th among 80 linebackers. He was ranked 61st a year ago.

Smith’s departure figures to create major depth issues for the Bears. Klein and Joe Thomas will be thrust into his spot opposite Nicholas Morrow.

But the focus for Poles is clearly 2023 and beyond, not the current season. It’s possible he could find a trade for running back David Montgomery, safety Eddie Jackson or another veteran before the deadline.

As in the Quinn trade, the Bears are reportedly paying most of Smith’s remaining salary this season, according to reports. He’ll be a bargain for the Ravens, at least for the rest of this season.