The Athletic

How Roquan Smith fits into the Ravens and why the Bears traded him

By Kevin Fishbain, Adam Jahns and Jeff Zrebiec

The Bears have agreed to trade linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens, a person with knowledge of the deal but not authorized to speak publicly has confirmed to Athleticism. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Baltimore will send second- and fifth-round picks and veteran linebacker AJ Klein to Chicago, Athleticism confirmed.
  • Baltimore’s center linebacker’s play has been inconsistent, and Smith, a two-time All-Pro, could be a long-term answer.
  • The seven players the Bears drafted in 2018 are now either on different teams or not in the NFL.


Smith, the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, “held” ahead of the season as he sought a new contract in Chicago. However, he eventually ended his holdout and attended training camp in late August, announcing he would play out the rest of his contract, which expires at the end of the 2022 season.

Smith has started every game for the Bears this season, totaling an NFL-best 83 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, two interceptions and three pass deflections. He had a career-high 163 tackles in 2021.

Chicago lost to the Cowboys on Sunday to fall to 3-5 on the season. Baltimore leads the AFC North 5-3 after Thursday’s win over the Buccaneers.

Why Baltimore made this trade

The Ravens have long prioritized the center linebacker position. It’s probably the Ray Lewis effect. This year, they just haven’t gotten consistent production from the position.

Former first-round pick Patrick Queen has been playing much better lately, but center linebacker Josh Bynes has been bumped and struggled at times. And the Ravens just haven’t had much quality depth behind the starters. Smith solidifies the Ravens in position and brings leadership and playability to the middle of their defense. – deer

Could Smith fit in with the Ravens long term?

He certainly could. The Ravens are very protective of their draft picks and for them to trade second and fifth rounders certainly suggests they don’t plan on Smith being just a hire.

Bynes, who was their starting center linebacker, has a one-year contract. The Ravens will have to make a decision on Queen’s fifth-year option this offseason, but it’s not a lock the Ravens are taking. Smith does not have an agent, and general manager Eric DeCosta has experience with such arrangements in his contract talks with quarterback Lamar Jackson. It would be surprising if DeCosta hadn’t already broached the subject with Smith. – deer

Why Chicago made this trade

Even though the Bears presented what they believed to be a generous and competitive contract offer to Smith last summer, they were probably never going to get where Smith wanted financially. This is not a plan willing to spend a significant portion of its cap on an off-ball linebacker. Both teams were heading for an annual chicken game with the franchise tag, or the Bears could try to get value for him at his peak. They found that with project capital as good as they would get for anyone on the list. – Fish shop

Have the Bears recovered enough?

The Bears got more for Smith from the Ravens than setter Khalil Mack. The Chargers gave the Bears a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick for Mack. The Bears then returned that sixth round to the Chargers for two seventh rounds in 2022.

After trading Smith, here are the Bears’ draft capital for the 2023 NFL Draft: 1st, 2nd, 2nd (Baltimore), 3rd, 4th, 4th (Philadelphia), 5th, 5th (Baltimore), and 7th. General manager Ryan Poles now has a lot to do if he wants to maneuver in the draft or try to make a trade for a receiver before Tuesday’s deadline. – Jahn

What happens next

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Compulsory reading

(Photo: Daniel Bartel/USA Today)

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