When Ryan Poles took over this past offseason, his plan to rebuild was made clear. This was always going to be a full re-set centered around 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields; but fans wondered how much would change this season. The answer: a lot. Already looking ahead toward over $100m in cap space in the 2023 offseason, the new Bears GM made three major trades at the NFL trade deadline to create (and preserve) even more. Today, we’re going to examine the merit of these moves from the lens of the long-term and assign a grade to each move, as well as a “trade deadline grade” for Ryan Poles.
Here’s The Situation
Well, you know. Ryan Poles inherited a porous roster with a few highly-paid vets on the defense, a franchise quarterback, and a waning identity. He immediately leaned into the inevitable demise of a once-competitive team. Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan were released, clearing a total of $13.5m, and Khalil Mack was traded to L.A. for a sixth-rounder and the second that became promising young safety Jaquan Brisker.
After a reasonably fruitful draft including other early contributors like EDGE Dominique Robinson and Cornerback Kyler Gordon, Poles wasn’t done. Just ahead of the trade deadline came three moves that will greatly affect the long-term trajectory of this team.
Bears Single-Season Sack Record-Holder
Poles stayed objective and forethinking choosing to move on from veteran edge-rusher Robert Quinn coming off a season where he set the Bears franchise-record for sacks in a season (18.5).
The details are as follows:
Bears receive: 2023 Fourth Round Pick (PHI)
Eagles receive: Robert Quinn
This was the right move. The only reason I can’t give this an A is because it was an obvious choice. The 32-year-old defender is coming off of the best season of his career from a statistical standpoint while also not fitting the timeline of the current roster given his age.
My main criticism here is that it seems the Bears could’ve sold higher. The trained eye knows that Robert Quinn is still an effective generator of pressure despite decreased sack production this season; but there certainly may have been a higher bidder in the offseason before Quinn’s production came back down to earth through the first several games of 2022.
The NFL’s Leading Tackler
Another move for which one could have read the proverbial tea leaves to predict is the trade of Roquon Smith. Smith played the beginning of this season amidst a contract dispute and still looks like the all-pro linebacker we’ve come to know. He’s a prototypical modern linebacker whose build and skillset lend themselves to covering backs and tight ends in the pass game – and at 25 years old, his best years may still be ahead of him. So, did the Bears get enough back for a player who still has time to grow with their young core?
The details of the trade are as follows:
Bears receive: LB A.J. Klein, 2023 Second Round Pick (BAL), 2023 Fifth Round Pick (NE)
Ravens receive: LB Roquon Smith
This situation put the young General Manager in a tough spot. In the last year of his rookie contract and needing an extension, Smith did not plan on budging from his asking price and the Bears were not willing to pay it. Klein is a 31-year-old throw-in so the significant return here is the draft picks. A second rounder is nothing to sneeze at, especially for an off-ball linebacker these days. All in all, Poles got a good return for a player who was on his way out the door already.
A Big Weapon For Justin Fields
Coming into the season, we all knew the receiving corps was.. incomplete. Darnell Mooney has certainly shown flashes and looks like a key piece of the offense going forward. The team also employs two starting-caliber running backs and the offensive line could be worse. That said, Justin Fields needed some help and Ryan Poles just got him some in third-year wideout Chase Claypool. Often maligned in the Pittsburgh offense, Claypool made his perturbment known and necessitated a trade for the reeling Steelers.
Ryan Poles and the Chicago front office capitalized on this at the deadline, reportedly outbidding the rival Packers for the young receiver. The details of the trade are as follows:
Bears receive: WR Chase Claypool
Steelers receive: 2023 Second Round Pick (CHI)
Bidding wars have the potential to drive up the value of a player and I think that is what happened here. In a vacuum, it is tough to justify giving up Chicago’s own second round pick which, let’s be honest will probably be in the early 30’s. Especially when a player is already rumored to be on the move, the leverage lies with the potential buyers. So, the price does seem a bit steep for a player who has yet to return to his electric rookie-year form.
This will, however, be a move that helps Justin Fields in the short-term and in the long-term. Claypool is just 24 years old projects as a running mate for Fields for years to come. Functioning out of the slot nearly 50% of the time so far this season, Claypool will provide the young QB with a big target in the middle of the field running slants and drags as well as an “X’ receiver on the outside on some snaps. Although his contested catch rate leaves something to be desired for a 6’4” 240 pound antelope, Claypool can beat press and win at the catch point.
Composite Grade: B-
The way Ryan Poles navigated the trade deadline for the Bears is exactly what Bears fans should want to see. Getting off of big veteran contracts, sidestepping a potential overpay to keep Roquon in the building, and prioritizing the needs of his franchise QB.
The slate is nearly clean but that is only part of the battle. All that’s left to do now is draft well and build this roster from the ground up around a young quarterback. Simple, right?
What was your favorite move Poles made so far this year?