LAKE FOREST — In the last nine days, Ryan Poles has addressed the media three times – something that isn’t too common for previous Bears general managers.

His latest appearance came following the NFL Trade Deadline on Tuesday. 

For roughly 12 minutes, Poles answered a series of questions regarding the foundation-shifting moves the organization has made in the last two days. 

Just hours after acquiring Chase Claypool from the Steelers, Poles started off with the move he made a day earlier — trading captain Roquan Smith to Baltimore for a second- and fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and linebacker A.J. Klein.

When Poles first got the job as the general manager, it wasn’t a part of the plan to trade away a former two-time second-team all-pro and one of the best young linebackers in the game.

“There’s part of me that’s bummed because this was a guy that I thought was going to be here for a long time,” Poles said. “I felt like we put a lot of effort forward to get that done, and we came up short. We couldn’t find common ground. And that’s just a part of this business, which I think we all understand.”

Poles gave his final contract offer before the season began, and Smith went public with how he felt about the offer on Twitter back in August, stating “the new front office regime doesn’t value me here. They’ve refused to negotiate in good faith.”

The first-year general manager felt “it was highly unlikely” the two sides would be able to “find common ground,” and Poles did admit the process was “harder” since Smith didn’t have an agent. 

So, Poles took the opportunity to acquire draft capital in place for one of his season-long captains. And of course, just like Robert Quinn, Poles understands losing Smith will have an effect on the locker room. 

“It’s important to me, and I think you all know me by now, the transparency, and being able to communicate with those guys to understand it’s not fantasy football where it’s not fantasy football when we’re just plugging out names and moving them around,” Poles said. “It’s deeper than that.”

The other portion of the press conference revolved around Claypool. The former No. 49 overall pick in the 2020 Draft went one pick before the Bears selected cornerback Jaylon Johnson. 

“I am excited about this player,” Poles said. “You know I’ve really liked the way that our offense is starting to come together and move. I thought it was important to add another impact player for our offense to go along with the guys that we currently have in the receiver room right now. I like the way Justin is trending. I think adding another big body, who is physical, explosive, great leaping ability, can stretch the field but also is violent with the ball in his hands as well as a blocker, I think that enhances everyone around him.”

Claypool is also a player Poles believes can be another reason why Justin Fields continues to show growth and overall confidence. 

One of the factors that played some influence in sending the Bears’ second-round pick to the Steelers was knowing what the wide receiver free agent market could look like in 2023. 

“Yeah, that’s part of my job and part of my crew upstairs, is, you have to do a little bit of forecasting and looking down the road,” Poles said. “I just didn’t feel completely comfortable with that. Not to say that there’s not good players there. I just didn’t feel comfortable with not maybe a little bit more aggressive at this point.”

Like the rest of the players on the roster, Poles will take these remaining nine games to evaluate Claypool before making a long-term commitment. Poles mentioned it does help that Claypool is still on his rookie contract. 

It will take time to evaluate if these latest moves were the right ones for the Bears’ organization. But Poles is willing to bet on himself to see how this all plays out.

“At the end of the day, I’m the decision maker and a leader and you have to step up and make those decisions,” Poles said. “At the end of the day, if it’s not, then it is on me.”


Nicholas Moreano is the Bears beat reporter for CHGO Bears. He has a master's degree in Communication from DePaul University and obtained his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa.