Why the Bears traded Roquan Smith to the Ravens and how the All-Pro LB fits in Baltimore


By Kevin Fishbain, Adam Jahns and Jeff Zrebiec

The Bears have agreed to trade linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens, a person with knowledge of the deal but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to The Athletic. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Baltimore will send second- and fifth-round picks and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein to Chicago, The Athletic confirmed.
  • Baltimore’s middle linebacker play has been inconsistent, and Smith, a two-time All-Pro, could be a long-term answer.
  • All seven players the Bears drafted in 2018 are now on different teams or out of the NFL.

Backstory

Smith, the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, “held-in” prior to the season as he sought a new contract from Chicago. However, he eventually ended his hold-in and participated in training camp in late August, announcing he would play out the remainder of his contract, which expires at the end of the 2022 season.

Smith started every game for the Bears this season, tallying an NFL-best 83 total tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, two interceptions and three pass deflections. He had a career-high 163 tackles in 2021.

Chicago lost to the Cowboys on Sunday to fall to 3-5 on the season. Baltimore leads the AFC North at 5-3 after Thursday’s win over the Buccaneers.

Why Baltimore made this trade

The Ravens have long prioritized the middle linebacker position. It’s probably the Ray Lewis effect. This year, they just haven’t gotten consistent production out of the position.

Former first-round pick Patrick Queen is playing much better of late, but middle linebacker Josh Bynes has been banged up and has struggled at times. And the Ravens just haven’t had much in the way of quality depth behind the starters. Smith solidifies the Ravens at the position and brings leadership and play-making ability to the middle of their defense. – Zrebiec

Could Smith fit with the Ravens in the long term?

He certainly could. The Ravens are very protective of their draft picks and for them to trade a second and a fifth rounder certainly suggests that they don’t plan on Smith being just a rental.

Bynes, who has been their starting middle linebacker, is on a one-year contract. The Ravens will have to make a decision on Queen’s fifth-year option this offseason, but it’s hardly a lock that the Ravens pick that up. Smith doesn’t have an agent and general manager Eric DeCosta has experience in such arrangements in his contract talks with quarterback Lamar Jackson. It would be surprising if DeCosta hasn’t already broached the subject with Smith. – Zrebiec

Why Chicago made this trade

Even though the Bears put forth what they believed to be a generous and competitive contract offer to Smith last summer, they were probably never going to get to where Smith wanted financially. This is not a regime willing to expend a sizable chunk of its cap on an off-ball linebacker. The two sides were headed toward an annual game of chicken with the franchise tag, or the Bears could try to get value for him at his peak. They found that with as good as draft capital as they’ll get for anyone on the roster. – Fishbain

Did the Bears get enough back?

The Bears got more for Smith from the Ravens than they did for pass rusher Khalil Mack. The Chargers gave the Bears a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 sixth-round pick for Mack. The Bears later sent that sixth-rounder back to the Chargers for two seventh-rounders in 2022.

After trading Smith, here is the Bears’ draft capital for the 2023 NFL Draft: 1st, 2nd, 2nd (Baltimore), 3rd, 4th, 4th (Philadelphia), 5th, 5th (Baltimore) and 7th. GM Ryan Poles now has a lot to work with if he wants to maneuver around in the draft or try to make a trade for a receiver before Tuesday’s deadline. – Jahns

What happens next

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Required reading

(Photo: Daniel Bartel / USA Today)





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