Less than a year removed from setting the Bears’ single-season record with 18 1/2 sacks, Robert Quinn — and his one sack this year — was shipped off to the undefeated Eagles for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick Wednesday.
The move, agreed to six days before the NFL’s trade deadline, speeds up the Bears’ rebuilding timeline. Quinn, 32, was the Bears’ oldest starter and largest active salary cap hit. That combination did not suit a team years away from Super Bowl contention — and hadn’t since new general manager Ryan Poles began stripping the Bears of pricy veterans in February.
Poles said then — and repeated Thursday evening –that he kept Quinn to “kickstart” the culture of the Bears’ defense. He said there “weren’t many conversations” about dealing him before the season, but that it became possible because of the development of fellow defensive ends Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson.
“It just made too much sense for what we’re trying to do,” Poles said. “It’s going to allow us to continue to build a highly competitive roster.”
That could take years. In the short term, Poles admitted he was taking a risk in “tweaking the fibers of your locker room,” particularly after a 33-14 win against the Patriots that counts as the highlight of the 3-4 Bears’ season.
“I value … the locker room and what it means, and the culture,” said Poles, who didn’t rule out another trade but said other talks were quiet. “And it sucks to mess with that, to be completely honest with you. But again, my job is to do what’s best for this organization not only now, but in the future.
“I felt like that was the best move for us to make.”
That sober look at the roster prompted the Bears to hire Poles in January. And it’s what precipitated Poles making the proper move Wednesday. Regardless of a life-affirming win Monday, Quinn was never going to be on the Bears’ next good team. The fourth-round draft pick might be.
Quinn’s struggles this season lessened the return. The Bears got a fourth-rounder because they agreed to pay down most of the base salary owed Quinn the rest of the season–the same tack that landed the Broncos the Rams’ second- and third-round picks for edge rusher Von Miller last year.
The return for Quinn doesn’t match what the Broncos got, or what Poles himself got for edge rusher Khalil Mack in March: the Chargers’ 2022 second-rounder and 2023 six-rounder. But Poles said he thought the fourth-round pick was “fair” and the result of a strong relationship between his deputy Ian Cunningham and Cunningham’s former Eagles boss, GM Howie Roseman.
Just last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Quinn, who is best-known for how low he bends while rushing around the edge, “one of the great defensive linemen in this era.” His teammates just called him Rob, and marveled at his folksy charm. Quinn said when he signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Bears in 2020 that he flipped a coin during free agency to choose them over the Falcons.
Even when he skipped offseason activities this year, Quinn reported to Halas Hall to receive the Brian Piccolo Award, the team’s highest honor, in April.
Linebacker Roquan Smith grew emotional Wednesday when asked about Quinn being dealt.
“Sucks,” Smith said, pulling his orange t-shirt over his face for a second. “I have a great deal of respect for that guy. Damn. Crazy.”
Quinn told the Sun-Times last week that he didn’t want to go to another team, in part because of family concerns. Going to the undefeated Eagles, though, gives him a rare postseason opportunity. Despite recording 102 career sacks over 12 seasons, Quinn has played in only two playoff games — both losses.
The Bears host the Eagles on Dec. 18.
“He’s done this,” quarterback Jalen Hurts told Eagles reporters. “I can’t wait to meet him and get it rolling.”