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The Roquan Smith trade continues to dismantle the Chicago Bears

General manager Ryan Powles said the contract the Chicago Bears offered Roquan Smith during training camp included a “record” clause where the inside linebacker made a public bid for the trade.

Since then, some league sources have said the Bears made a strong offer, but all that really matters is how the Poles responded. If he viewed it as a premium offer, then the Bears were never going to deal with Smith. Thus find a trade partner in the Baltimore Ravens made all the difference in the world on Monday – and was probably a happier development than anything else.

The Bears will send Smith to the Ravens and pay him the rest of his 2022 salary for about $4 million in exchange for second- and fifth-round picks in 2023 and inside linebacker AJ Klein, who was on New York’s fourth practice squad Giants weeks before the Ravens signed him.

If you think the Bears’ lethargic performance in Sunday’s 49-29 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was due to effects of trade by robert quinn last week, prepare to be miserable this week when the Miami Dolphins visit Soldier Field.

Players talked about the emotional toll the Quinn trade had on the locker room. He was a 33-year-old veteran with one sack this season. Smith, 25, is in the prime of his career and has been the best player in the building. It will rub off on those who remain, who are kept at a professional level on a daily basis by coach Matt Eberfluss’ HITS principle, who are asked to give their all in every meet and every rep.

Recall that on Wednesday, Smith broke down in the media room when he answered questions when it became known that Quinn went to Philadelphia.

“Give me a second if you don’t mind,” Smith said before a long pause. “You know, I have a lot of respect for this guy. Shit. Crazy.”

With these words Smith left the room. Smart noticed that Smith wasn’t most upset about being traded. Now he’s gone, too, and the Bears have little to do out of blocks for a front seven defense that can’t stop the run or get off the field on third down.

Not only did the Pole trade two players who started the season as captains, but two of the three highest-paid players on the roster. The Bears now have one first-round draft pick left: quarterback Justin Fields, a 1st-round pick in 2021 and 2022 after trading for his pick.

If there was any doubt — and there shouldn’t have been — the rest of this season is strictly about Fields’ development and whether he emerges as a potential franchise quarterback for the Poles and Eberflus. The Smith trade is also a reminder that almost anyone else on the roster can be acquired by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The Bears now own nine picks in April with additional picks in the 2nd, 4th and 5th rounds and no sixth round pick. The Poles will need those picks and the salary cap — the Bears will have more than $100 million — to start building the roster after clearing the books this year and list.

Smith leads the NFL with 83 tackles and will help fill a hole in the middle of a Ravens defense that has struggled, especially against the pass. Former first-round pick Patrick Quinn hasn’t been the player the Ravens (5-3) were hoping for, and they’re looking to shore up the situation.

While Smith had just five tackles in the loss in Dallas, he was coming off a game-high 12 tackles with a sack and an interception on Monday night in New England. He ran to the end zone after a pick in the fourth quarter in a 33-14 blowout, using his hands to mimic peeling bills off a stack of money.

“I knew we were out of the game and there was a little rain,” he said.

In Week 6, Smith had 12 sacks against the Washington Commanders and 16 tackles and an interception in a Week 3 win over the Houston Texans. Big games like that, he believed, would help pay for his bid.

“I feel like I’m in the same place I was when I asked (to be traded) and got denied,” Smith said last week, minutes before news of the Quinn trade broke. “I’m shifting my focus to being the best guy for the guys in the locker room, the best guy for myself and the loyal fans, and I just want to go out there every week and show that I’m the best in the game. It’s just my business.”

The Ravens have done their homework on him for a while, and it will be interesting to see if they can sign Smith to a multi-year extension. They paid a lot for a midseason rental and figure to need their franchise for quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have long been masters of compensatory draft picks, and if Smith were to leave via free agency, they could give him back a third-round pick in 2024.

The Ravens place a lot of value on inside linebackers, who don’t usually have much positional value. That’s one reason the staff I interviewed see the return the Bears got from Smith as a positive.

Yes, the Bears could have franchise-tagged Smith, but the last linebacker to be tagged off the ball was David Harris of the New York Jets in 2011. The franchise numbers are the same for middle linebackers in a 4-3 scheme as they are designed for lead rushers who play behind the linebackers in a 3-4 formation. Pass rushers have far more value, which is one reason there have been questions about how high the Bears would be willing to go to keep Smith happy.

Smith plays with tremendous range. He has an impact against the run and the pass, and the Bears have emphasized his effectiveness as a blitzer, while several others return home regularly. He fits what Eberfluss is looking for in a defense. But he’s only one piece, his position isn’t the most important element, and apparently the Bears ultimately didn’t see the point in the money.

The dismantling part of the reconstruction will be completed soon. The Poles have just a few hours left to consider trade offers for other players. In the off-season, he and his staff have no work to do. This team needs just about everything, including a young, athletic midfielder with a nose for the ball.

The hard work is about to begin.


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