Roquan Smith trade — Why Ravens, Bears made a deal, what’s next
On Monday, the Ravens acquired the NFL’s leading rusher Roquan Smith, the source confirmed. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Ravens are sending the Bears a second- and fifth-round pick in 2023 for Smith, a two-time All-Pro inside linebacker. As part of the trade, the Ravens sent a linebacker AJ Klein to Chicago, with the Bears picking up $4.833 million of Smith’s $5.408 million for the rest of the season, a source told Schefter.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4:00 PM ET, and the Bears have been busy after also trading defensive end Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles October 26. How will these moves affect the reconstruction of the franchise? And does Smith think the Ravens are all in on the title race?
ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley, Bears reporter Courtney Cronin, NFL analyst Matt Bowen and NFL draft analyst Matt Miller answer the seven biggest questions surrounding the trade.
Why did the Ravens make the deal?
Smith gives the Ravens their best playmaking power and leadership up the middle since Ray Lewis. He is one of two players with at least 500 tackles and 15 sacks in the past five seasons (Shaquille Leonard is the second). The center of the defense is Baltimore’s biggest void — and has been ever since CJ Mosley left after the 2018 season – which is why the Ravens tried to sign him Bobby Wagner in free agency last March. Josh Bynes, who started in the middle the last two seasons, has struggled this season and has shown signs of slowing down, especially in the passing game. The Ravens allowed the third-most yards after the catch (784) on passes thrown less than five yards downfield. — Hensley
Does this mean the Ravens are all in to win the championship?
Not really, unless Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta trades for a wide receiver before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. The trade, however, is a big step forward toward Baltimore’s first championship in a decade.
There is no doubt that the Ravens defense is talented. Baltimore has 10 defensive players selected in the first or second round. But the reason the Ravens are 5-3 and not 8-0 is because their defense suffered three fourth-quarter breakdowns.
Baltimore desperately needed a young emotional leader like Smith, who can step up and make plays in the most critical moments. This is DeCosta’s third trade deadline. He hit the guard Marcus Peters 2019 and missed the pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue In 2020, Smith looks like a steal for a second- and fifth-round pick, and the Ravens wouldn’t have made this deal unless they were extremely confident in signing him to an extension (rather than a three-month rental). — Hensley
Why did the Bears make the deal?
The Bears are rebuilding, and it’s clear that first-year general manager Ryan Poles isn’t afraid to make moves that require sacrifices in the short term. The Poles traded veteran defensive end Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 26, and he dealt Smith to the Ravens five days later.
After failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension this offseason, prompting Smith to publicly request a trade on Aug. 9, the linebacker ended his holdout and bet on himself by playing up his five-year, $9.7 million option. He’s off to a great start, too, leading the NFL with 83 tackles while posting 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in eight games
As Smith’s stock continued to rise, so did the possibility of Chicago using the franchise tag on the linebacker in the offseason, which could have caused further problems between the player and the front office. The two sides weren’t close in numbers this summer, and it’s hard to imagine the Bears would want to shell out over $20 million a year for Smith to reset the off-ball linebacker market when their focus is clearly on building the offense. From the day he was hired, the Poles were steadfast in their belief that they would build through the draft. Chicago now has nine draft picks to make that happen in 2023, including additional second- and fourth-round picks (two each) thanks to the Quinn and Smith trades. — Kroninov
What does that mean for the Bears defense?
Polish and Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has been in step since the two were hired in January. Moving Quinn and Smith won’t happen unless Eberflus gives his blessing, even if it means the Bears’ defense takes a step back in the short term.
But to be clear, the Bears gave up 49 points in Dallas on Sunday with Smith. That’s something to keep in mind now that two of Chicago’s best veteran defenders are gone. The lack of talent on the Bears’ defense won’t be fixed in one season, but the next nine games will give Chicago a chance to evaluate young defenders stepping into new roles, starting with the rookie linebacker. Sterling Weatherford and Jack Sanborn.
With all the picks they’ve put together and over $120 million in cap space in 2023, the Bears have plenty of resources to start closing the gap, which on defense starts with finding pass rushers. — Kroninov
How does Smith fit into the Ravens defense?
With the physicality to play all three downs, the Ravens are a great fit for Smith’s strengths. Smith can be deployed as a versatile defender in coordinator Mike Macdonald’s system, plugging holes in the running game. Look for him to gather scrimmages, match-and-carry in coverage and add to the front in Baltimore’s pressure schemes. (He has 16.5 career sacks.) Smith has the pursuit speed and disruptive ability to create impact plays as a stack ‘backer in Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed opponents to pick up first downs on 27.4% of their rushes, which ranks 26th in the league. They will be better off with Smith on the court. — Bowen
What are the Bears’ biggest needs right now?
With their first-round pick likely near the top of the board (projected to be No. 8 according to ESPN’s Football Power Index) and now two second-round picks, the Bears must focus early in the 2023 draft on addressing the lefty tackle position. Rookie Braxton Jones has been decent, as his pass block win rate (89.7%) is second among rookies, but he’s allowed nine sacks this season — second only to Indianapolis’ Matt Pryor (10). He is not a long-term answer. Ohio State Paris Johnson Jr. fits what the team needs and could be in the game on day one for Chicago.
In Round 2, look for the Bears to add a potential starter at wide receiver while looking to replace Smith at linebacker. If he falls out of the first round after a down season, LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte he would be perfect as a bigger pass catcher to pair with Darnell Mooney. — Miller
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