The Baltimore Ravens are trading for Chicago Bears two-time All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith, CBS Sports NFL insiders Jonathan Jones and Josina Anderson have confirmed. The Bears will receive second and fifth-round picks, along with linebacker A.J. Klein, in return. Smith is the second high-profile defender dealt by the Bears in the last week — just ahead of the NFL trade deadline (4 p.m. ET Tuesday) — after Chicago traded edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Eagles.
Smith, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, has recorded 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions this season. Through four-plus seasons, the Georgia product has missed just four games. The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year has been a playmaker since arriving in the league, amassing over 600 tackles, 16.5 sacks, one forced fumble, seven interceptions and one touchdown.
The 25-year-old is in the final year of his rookie contract and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Spotrac.com projects an average annual salary of $17.6 million, which would be the second-highest among active off-ball linebackers; a steep price to pay for the position.
When a question about the state of contract negotiations arose during the preseason, first-year general manager Ryan Poles said the following, via ChicagoBears.com:
“I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we’re at right now. I thought we’d be in a better situation, to be completely honest with you…With that said, we can’t lose sight that this isn’t about one player. My job is to build a roster that’s going to sustain success for a long period of time. At the end of the day, we’ve got to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears.”
Baltimore is atop the AFC North standings with a 5-3 record. Smith joins a group that includes former first-round selection Patrick Queen, as well as Josh Bynes, A.J. Klein and Malik Harrison.
With Smith out of the picture, the Bears are left with young linebackers Sterling Weatherford and Jack Sanborn, as well as free agent signing Nicholas Morrow.
The Bears sent Quinn to Philadelphia last week in exchange for draft compensation. The news of Quinn’s trade was broken to the Smith during his own media availability, which brought on raw emotion. Poles is stocking up draft capital in his first year on the job. Chicago fell to 3-5 on the year with a loss to Dallas over the weekend.
Trade grades: Ravens B+, Bears B-
The Ravens are certainly getting a playmaker on a defense who has turned things around over the last few weeks. Smith leads the NFL with 83 tackles and always has a knack for finding the football, having two interceptions and 2.5 sacks on the year. Not only has Smith recorded double-digit tackles in all but two games this season, but he has 100-plus tackles in all four of his NFL seasons and his 246 tackles are the fourth-most in the NFL.
Josh Bynes has been reliable for the Ravens since his return last year, but Baltimore needs a playmaking linebacker at the MIKE to pair with Patrick Queen. Whether the Ravens can sign Smith to a long-term deal will validate this trade, but Baltimore is going for it.
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.
— Jeff Kerr