Yesterday, the Chicago Bears traded Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens, and the internet was full of folks desperately trying to ascertain what the trade “meant.” Well, here’s what it meant. The Bears did not want to give the standout inside linebacker anywhere near the $100 million he was seeking. Why? Several reasons.
First, they didn’t trust him at the organizational level. Roquan had a weird history with this club and that history involved an active nightlife that often got him into trouble. It was fair for ownership to wonder whether Smith would remain motivated after receiving a massive payday. When guys are not “football first” – and Roquan was decidedly not – motivation often decreases when the bank balance increases.
Second, the production was not there in 2022. Forget tackles, and the occasional interception. Roquan Smith is an off-ball linebacker in a pass-heavy NFL. The Bears are the second worst run defense in the league. Opposing tight ends eat their lunch every week. Smith is not entirely to blame for either development in 2022, but he too often disappears from games. The Bears needed Roquan to play like a superstar every week. Through eight weeks, had he performed that level three times? If the team can get torched for 49 by the Cowboys with him playing every snap, why not try somebody else at the position and use the picks/money saved to get better elsewhere on the roster?
Third, look at their needs. They need pass rushers, plural, and those cost big money. They need another corner, badly, and that will cost big money. They need a pair of receivers and, you guessed, those cost big money. And they need another tackle, at least, and those don’t come cheap. The team simply wasn’t in position to tie up any substantial cash in a secondary position when they have so many primary needs.
The Bear made Roquan an offer. They believed it was a fair offer. Roquan did not agree, abandoning the negotiating table and taking things public with a trade request. When he did so, he terminated his long-term relationship with the franchise’s new general manager. Yesterday, the franchise terminated their relationship with him. Was it a bold move? Yes. It was also inevitable.