Ryan Poles: Roquan Smith's contract demands left Bears with just one sensible choice — to trade him


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) – As the start of the regular season approached, first-year Bears general manager Ryan Poles and linebacker Roquan Smith made one last attempt at reaching an agreement on a long-term contract extension.

Poles believed the 25-year-old Smith could be an impact player with the Bears for years to come, but he hadn’t been willing to offer Smith a contract that would make him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL. Smith wanted a lucrative contract that rivaled or topped those of star linebackers Shaquille Leonard (Colts) and Fred Warner (49ers).

The Bears and Smith were still far apart when they exchanged their final offers before the season. The disagreement led Poles to trade Smith to the Ravens on Monday afternoon for a second-round pick, a fifth-round pick and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein.

“There’s a 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 Tuesday after the trade deadline passed. “I thought we put a lot of effort forward to get that done, and we came up short. We couldn’t find common ground. That's just a part of this business, which I think we all understand.

“The reality of it is you have to ask yourself a question. Are we ever going to find that middle ground? From our previous conversations together, I felt it was highly unlikely. So, are you able to then take the opportunity to enhance your roster now? Or are you OK with the chance that he walks away and we can’t use some of that to enhance our roster? That’s what it came down to, and I felt like we had to move forward at that time.”

The No. 8 overall pick of the Bears in the 2018 NFL Draft, Smith is playing in the fifth and final season of his contract. Chicago will pay out $4.833 million of Smith’s remaining salary for this season, which helped increase the value of its return from Baltimore.

Smith conducted a contract hold-in during training camp in an effort to land a long-term deal. He reported with the Bears to Halas Hall but didn’t practice until Aug. 20, when he halted the hold-in and announced he’d focus on the season.

During his hold-in, Smith publicly requested a trade from the Bears on Aug. 9. At the time, Poles didn't entertain that request and hoped to sign Smith to an extension.

Smith had 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions for the Bears in eight games this season. He’s set to enter unrestricted free agency in March unless he reaches an extension with the Ravens before then.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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