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LAKE FOREST – Ryan Poles acknowledged five days ago after trading Robert Quinn that being in his position means there are “tough decisions you have to make.”
Well, the first-year general manager one upped himself on Monday when he sent Roquan Smith – a 25-year-old, two-time second-team all pro – to the Baltimore Ravens for a second- and fifth-round pick in 2023.
The move comes a day after the Bears defense gave up 442 yards of total offense in the 49-29 loss to the Cowboys. In the game, Smith didn’t have his best performance, but he still was leading the league in total tackles with 83 and has registered over 100 tackles in every season and is well on pace to do that in 2022.
Poles’ decision to trade Smith reinforces that he is committed to building the Bears in his image. And a good way to start that is by acquiring draft picks.
With nine picks so far in the 2023 NFL Draft and with over $125 million in salary cap space, Poles will have plenty of opportunities to build the roster how he sees fit. And there could be a chance Poles isn’t done making moves.
Since he didn’t invest much at all on the offensive side of the ball in the first offseason, that will most likely be his area of focus in Year 2 as a general manager. Justin Fields could use a new receiver or two, a few offensive linemen, etc.
And obviously the Bears will have to replace Smith. In addition to the two picks, the Bears also acquired linebacker A.J. Klein from the Ravens – a 10-year veteran who has only played in two games this season. But Klein should be viewed as a placeholder for a team that is clearly rebuilding.
Even though Poles clearly has a vision for the team beyond this season, the decision to trade away two season-long captains in less than a week will no doubt have ramifications with the players who are still on this current roster.
How could it not? The locker room was emotional after Quinn was traded. Smith broke down in tears at the podium, so there is no question trading away the former No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft will have mixed feelings among the players.
“I almost feel like there’s the emotional side, the human part of it that you know you’re affecting not only a man but his family,” Poles said after the Quinn trade. “You’re kind of shaking that all up and I don’t take that lightly at all and I’m sensitive to that. You also know that you’re tweaking the fibers of your locker room, and that’s a big deal too.”
Poles understands his actions will have consequences, but he assured Bears fans back in August when Smith requested a trade that his 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.”
And that meant trading away one of the best linebackers in the game.
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