The Bears continued to overhaul their roster by trading linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens in exchange for a 2nd and 5th round draft pick as well as Ravens linebacker AJ Klein. Smith was in the final year of his rookie contract with the Bears and the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new contract this summer.
This is a great trade for the Bears, who I am assuming will be picking up most of Smith’s remaining $5.4 million salary to help the Ravens fit Smith under the cap. Chicago will come away with a 2nd and 5th round pick for a player they likely were not going to keep in 2023 and would have likely netted them nothing in free agency. The Bears only option to receive any trade value next season would have been to franchise tag Smith in hopes of finding a trade partner and those are always risky options for a team to depend on.
This is the third major trade for the Bears new regime. They shipped off Khalil Mack to the Chargers early in the offseason and have now traded away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith in the span of a week. While many Bears fans I am sure are disappointed to see a former top pick traded in the middle of a better than expected season, these are the moves that give the team more opportunities to get better in the future and contend for a championship and not just contend for a 0.500 record.
This is an odd trade for the Ravens. While the Ravens defense has been a disappointment this is a big price to pay for a player who really does not play an impact position and may just be a half season rental. Smith is a solid linebacker who more or less trends with the group of players who earn around $12-$15 million a season. The main difference is where Smith was drafted which likely will have him seeking in excess of $20 million a season.
At the moment the Ravens franchise tag for 2023 is going to be reserved for Lamar Jackson. We have already seen the organization walk away from offering an absurd money contract for CJ Mosley in 2019 so I can’t see where they would differ here. Smith, like Jackson, represents himself and when dealing with the Ravens and the way they approach contracts likely makes things even more difficult.
Assuming the Ravens do decide to let him walk and do wind up tagging Jackson they are probably under the assumption that they will receive a 3rd round pick for him. I am not sure that I would be that bullish and would probably lean to a 4th round pick. The Ravens are usually pretty good at managing their compensatory gains and losses so I do believe they would get a comp pick for him if he leaves as a free agent.
Still a 2nd and 5th in 2023 for a half year rental and a possible 4th in 2024 is a big cost. Assuming Jackson does eventually sign an extension worth $50 million a season, those draft picks become even more valuable as you navigate the ins and outs of managing the roster around a massive QB contract. Because Jackson’s rookie contract will actually expire before they re-sign him there will be far less ways to manipulate the cap with it the way the Bills and Chiefs did with Allen and Mahomes. It would be more of the equivalent of the Dak Prescott contract in Dallas in which the team will likely have to renegotiate an early raise in large part due to cap constraints down the line.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.