The Chicago Bears made a blockbuster trade sending star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens. Chicago received a 2023 second- and fifth-round picks in return, as well as linebacker A.J. Klein.
While the Robert Quinn trade was expected, the Smith trade was more surprising. Even despite the very public contract dispute earlier this summer, GM Ryan Poles made it clear he wanted to re-sign Smith to a contract extension. But both sides couldn’t agree, and the writing certainly appeared to be on the wall.
Here’s a collection of all of the grades for the Bears’ trade of Roquan Smith, where experts applauded the move for Chicago.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
ESPN wasn’t as complementary about the trade as other outlets were considering Smith’s value to the Bears defense.
The Bears had to trade Robert Quinn. They didn’t have to trade Smith, but it was close to that.
Smith could have been franchised and/or signed to a long-term deal after this season, but the Bears are rebuilding, meaning that the value Smith offers over the second half of this season is worth a lot more to a current contender than it is to the Bears. Plus, Smith already requested a trade away from Chicago in August. It was better to cash in now.
It’s a smaller factor, but I do think it’s interesting and not ideal that the Bears have picked up the salary tab in both the Quinn deal and the Smith trade for the rest of 2022. It can grease the wheels to get things done, but it means sacrificing a normal perk of a teardown. In dealing players you usually rack up draft picks and save cap space to roll into seasons when you are contending.
Still, gaining a second-round pick is useful for a team that is going to need to add young talent to its roster. And for the Bears, a second-round pick now is definitely better than the prospect of a third-round compensatory pick had Smith walked after the season. The pick keeps them flexible for free agency and gives them an additional pick now to get their rebuild going.
The Athletic: A-
AP Photo/Jason Behnken
The Athletic didn’t think Smith would be in Chicago beyond 2022, and they commend the Bears for getting some draft capital for their rebuild.
The writing has been on the wall with Smith. He probably wasn’t staying in Chicago beyond this season. Even if the Bears found themselves in the playoff race, their ceiling would have been limited. Moving Smith will help the rebuild if they can hit on their quality draft picks.
CBS Sports: B-
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
CBS Sports acknowledged Chicago’s rebuild is officially on!
As for the Bears, getting a second and fifth-round pick, along with Klein, is part of their rebuild. Chicago got three draft picks in return for Smith and Robert Quinn. They’ll have a first, two seconds, a third, two fourth, two fifth, and a seventh in the 2023 draft. The rebuild is on.
For The Win: A
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For The Win praised GM Ryan Poles for his rebuilding efforts, where the hope is the Bears will build around quarterback Justin Fields moving forward.
At the same time, it’s obvious the Bears aren’t as concerned with on-field results (meaning wins and losses) through the rest of 2022. They dealt away Smith because they weren’t going to let him take up a minimum of one-sixth of their slated $120-million-plus salary cap space in 2023 and because a valuable second and fifth-rounder can be potential pieces that help elevate Fields — their top path to being a Super Bowl contender in the future. (They might even turn around and use these picks to get a playmaker for their young quarterback before this trade deadline concludes. Gasp!)
Even better, when you take a macro look at this situation, the Bears will likely continue pulling out all the stops to make Fields comfortable, as they have in the past few weeks. That means their offense, which just cut up two of the NFL’s elite defenses in the Patriots and Cowboys, will continue to churn along. At the same time, because they won’t stop anyone, the Bears are probably cementing themselves near the top of the 2023 draft. And when a quarterback-needy team or three comes calling in the spring, they can start pitting them against each other to get the highest possible king’s ransom that will let them further build a complete roster around Fields. In an ideal world.
We are watching one of the NFL’s clearest front-office tank efforts in a long time in Chicago. With the way Fields has played lately and with Poles and Co.’s orchestrated flexibility for a concrete plan as a complement, who knows? It just might work.
Sporting News: B+
AP Photo/Kyusung Gong
Sporting News liked the haul that Chicago received for Smith.
The Bears didn’t get a first-rounder, but got a good depth option in A.J. Klein on top of second- and fifth-rounders.
Pro Football Network: B+
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Pro Football Network applauded GM Ryan Poles for accelerating the Bears’ rebuild and getting value for Smith ahead of an important 2023 offseason.
It’s never easy to move a player like Smith, but it never made sense for the Bears to invest in an off-ball linebacker when they have so many other problem areas on their roster. Acquiring a second-round pick and more for a half-season worth of value is just good business.
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FanSided appreciated that the Bears got some draft capital for a pending free agent in Smith, who they didn’t think would be on the roster beyond 2022.
Despite the fact that we’ve finally started to see Justin Fields showcase his potential over the past few games, the fact of the matter is that the Bears are not a team that’s going to be contending anytime soon with their current roster. As such, it would’ve been somewhat unwise for a team that has salary cap troubles to invest so heavily in an off-ball linebacker, even one as talented as Smith, this offseason.
Thus, it feels right to say that Smith would almost surely be gone from Chicago after this season as they could be starting to tear it down to the studs. And now the Bears are taking steps to further that process to build around Fields in a new regime.
Getting a Top 64 pick and another Day 3 pick is exactly what Chicago needs moving forward. They need as many darts as possible to throw at the board to try and simply get more talent in the building and find more answers for more positions moving forward. It might not be popular, but this is a win for the future of the Bears.
Bleacher Report: A
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Bleacher Report praised the Bears for getting draft value in exchange for Smith, whose future was in question beyond this year.
This past summer, Smith requested a trade as he sought a new deal, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Chicago might have lost him this upcoming offseason unless it used the franchise tag on him.
Per ESPN’s Field Yates, the Bears now have nine 2023 draft picks (three within the first two rounds) and over $100 million in cap space this offseason. In the near future, they can significantly upgrade their roster around quarterback Justin Fields, specifically the offensive line and wide receiver corps.
Bears Wire: A
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Here at Bears Wire, there’s a question about whether the trade should’ve happened at all — but it does line up with what GM Ryan Poles is doing as he rebuilds the roster.
That feels like a win-win for both sides. It’s a bit less than what the Denver Broncos received in the Von Miller blockbuster in 2021 where they shipped their star linebacker off to the Los Angeles Rams for a second and a third-round pick. Miller was much more accomplished than Smith, though, and sadly Klein doesn’t exactly make up the difference.
Should the Bears have traded Smith at all, though? It’s a fair debate and there’s really no right answer at this time. There are many needs on this team that draft picks can help fill if used correctly, but at the same time, the Bears are losing one of their best players who is still very much in his prime. That being said, Poles at least continues to stay in a lane with this rebuild and that’s commendable. It can be easy to take half measures, especially in the NFL when there are only 17 guaranteed games a season. Poles did the easy part with the trade, now comes the hard part where he must spend those draft picks wisely. Time will tell with how he does that.