Trading Roquan Smith is regrettable and counterproductive for Bears

The Bears needed a full teardown. That’s why the general manager position was open for Ryan Poles in the first place. There was little worth clinging to on a roster that bottomed out under Ryan Pace’s watch, and the delusion of believing they were close only made Poles’ rebuild more difficult.

So painful departures like Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn were inevitable and sensible.

But Roquan Smith? That’s regrettable and counterproductive.

By trading Smith to the Ravens for a second- and fifth-round pick plus linebacker A.J. Klein, Poles flipped the best, most surefire player on his roster for some maybes. It’s the first move he has made that works against his renovation project at Halas Hall.

Hey, maybe he’ll turn one of those draft picks into someone as good as, you know, Smith.

It’s a trade that illustrates how far the Bears are from doing anything meaningful on the field.

If anyone was disgusted by their defense in the 49-29 loss to the Cowboys, get ready for it to plunge to new nauseating levels. At this point, there’s no longer even a shred of doubt that they’ll benefit more from losses than wins, and that’ll be tough for viewers to stomach.

Meanwhile, the Ravens aspire to something significant. They have an MVP-winning quarterback in Lamar Jackson, they lead their division and they’re always shooting for the Super Bowl.

It hasn’t always worked out, but imagine following a team that’s always going for it. Imagine the team’s moves almost always making sense. Bears fans usually have to resort to imagining.

The Ravens had a strong core with Jackson and have fortified their roster with five first- or second-round picks over the last two drafts. Now, they’re adding.

Teams that have a quarterback race to put as much talent around him as possible. Teams that don’t — or in the Bears’ case aren’t sure — are sellers. They have to wait.

Perpetual waiting is the worst of the Bears’ traditions.

The state of the team is mostly on Pace. Poles was hired to clean up his mess, and that’s a multi-year undertaking. He has been steadfast in his plan to free up future salary-cap space and stockpile draft picks. It’s fine to clear out players he didn’t pick, but Smith wasn’t part of the problem — just the opposite.

He is a top-tier defensive weapon still ascending at 25, and there’s no question about how good and versatile he is after the last five seasons. He could have been the centerpiece of coach Matt Eberflus’ defense for years.

The Ravens wanting him essentially confirms that. They have a reputation for getting it right.

Meanwhile, Poles is asking for a lot of faith along the way, and as a first-time general manager, he hasn’t earned that yet. The only track record he has is the one he’s putting together now.

Smith is more established. Everyone knows what he can do, and his star will shine even brighter in Baltimore.

He certainly will rationalize the trade internally because he didn’t want to allocate a $100 million contract extension at what he considers a non-premium position.

When Smith didn’t get an extension amid what he felt were disrespectful negotiations by Poles, he ended his “hold in” by declaring he was determined to hit free agency. But Poles won that clash on two fronts: He got Smith back on field without budging and the team had the option of going year-to-year with him by using the franchise tag.

What was the point of playing hardball only to trade him midseason?

The Bears obviously weren’t going to contend this season, and Poles’ priority is identifying which players could be pillars in 2023 and beyond. He went into this season with few concrete answers, but Smith was one of them. Hewas a knowntalent, and erasing him from the blueprint leaves the Bears’ future more unclear than it already was.

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