How Bears evaluation of Roquan Smith factored into trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Over the past two days we’ve heard several explanations from Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus for why the Bears were comfortable trading Roquan Smith, considering Smith is a two-time Second-Team All-Pro in the prime of his career, who’s also leading the NFL in tackles and playing a premium position in Eberflus’ defense. Each explanation boiled down to two big things: the Bears didn’t value Smith the way he valued himself, and there weren’t signs that the two sides would be able to find a compromise.
“The reality of it is that you have to ask yourself a question: are we ever going to find that middle ground?” Poles said. “From our previous conversations you gather that information, and it felt like it was highly unlikely.”
More simply put, Smith saw himself as a Shaq Leonard-caliber player (the highest-paid linebacker in the game, and the star of Eberflus’ Colts defense) and the Bears didn’t.
“We always base things on numbers and production, and to us, we covet ball production in that position,” said Eberflus. “That right there is a very important thing that WILL linebacker needs to do.”
That was always going to be the key for Smith this year, and it was something he wasn’t able to show in his eight games with the new regime. For context, Leonard, who joined the league in 2018 just like Smith, has 12 career interceptions. Smith has seven. Leonard has 17 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries to his name. Smith has one of each. Smith does have the edge over Leonard in the tackling department, 607 to 544, but that only amounts to 12 more tackles per year and Flus wants the ball over all.
That’s not to say Eberflus and Poles did not think Smith was a good player. Quite the opposite. Throughout this year, each man has reiterated that they love Smith both as a person and a player. Back in August, Poles made a point of saying the Bears had record-breaking elements in their contract offer to Smith. But each man also said that scheme fit discussions were had in the overall conversations about trading Smith. Again, the Bears didn’t see Leonard-like production from Smith, so they weren’t going to give him a Leonard-like contract.
“It’s a big puzzle piece,” said Poles. “And you’re putting all these things together to make a final decision that you hope is as sound as possible.”
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