by Evan Bruner
The Chicago Bears continued to make headlines at the trade deadline, moving star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens for a second and fifth-round pick. Smith, the eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft, currently leads the league with 83 total tackles to go with 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. Smith reluctantly agreed to play under the franchise tag after failing to reach an extension with Chicago and will be a free agent this upcoming offseason. This move further solidifies the Bears’ position as a rebuilding team and leaves them with even more draft picks for 2023.
While moving on from the likes of Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack felt inevitable following Ryan Pace’s departure, trading away Smith is a bit more of a controversial topic among Bears fans. He’s still only 25 years old, and outside of a handful of games he missed due to personal reasons back in 2019, Smith hasn’t had any issues staying on the field. Additionally, the Bears are projected to have the most cap room of any team in football this offseason, which would allow them to pay Smith the massive contract he wants.
However, not everyone has been enamored by Smith’s recent play. No one denies his talent and ability, but they haven’t led to as consistent high-level play as many had hoped. Analytics suggest that tackles aren’t the most valuable statistic and are more of a quantitative measurement than a qualitative one. No one is trying to say recording tons of tackles is a bad thing, but they certainly aren’t the only thing to look at when evaluating play.
The ultimate issue between Smith and the Bears was money. Smith has always pushed a hard bargain and reportedly asked for record-breaking sums of money. Although the Bears had more than enough money to pay Smith, many felt it would be ill-advised. Not every good player is viewed as indispensable, and general Ryan Poles seemed to echo that sentiment.
The driving forces behind the Bears’ decision to move Smith are pretty easy to understand. They weren’t going to pay him the money he wanted, and they could use all the draft capital possible. The Ravens’ side, however, is a bit more complicated. Trading for a big-name player on an expiring contract often boxes front offices into a corner.
To justify trading multiple picks for an off-ball linebacker, Roquan Smith doesn’t just need to be a Raven for the rest of the season; he needs to be one for the foreseeable future. Given Smith’s previous demands, it’s hard to imagine Baltimore won’t have to break the bank to keep him. The team already has an unresolved contract dispute with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson, and Smith’s situation is unlikely to make that any better.
It’s never easy moving on from a franchise cornerstone. Smith was a true professional through it all, and fans should commend him for it. But hard decisions are a part of the NFL, and the Bears continue to load up assets that put them in a prime position to improve the team in the offseason. While what exactly is done remains to be determined, fans have reason to be excited about what’s to come.