Roquan Smith is no longer the face of the Chicago Bears defense.
Chicago traded the linebacker to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday for linebacker A.J. Klein and second- and fifth-round picks, per multiple reports:
The Bears will also pay $4.833 million of Smith's $5.408 million salary, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
The 2022 season was set to be the final one on Smith's contract before free agency, and there was plenty of uncertainty about his status. In July, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noted the Georgia product would not report to the start of training camp because of his contract situation.
"Smith has not yet received an offer he would remotely consider, thus he'll wait," Rapoport wrote.
Then Smith wrote a statement in August requesting a trade: "Unfortunately, the new front office regime doesn't value me here. They've refused to negotiate in good faith, every step of this journey has been 'take it or leave it.' The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself, and for the entire LB market if I signed it."
He also said he wanted to be a Bear his entire career but was left with no choice:
General manager Ryan Poles said in response, "Right now, my intentions are to make sure Roquan is on this team."
That Smith called out the new regime was notable because Chicago is in a transition period in 2022 with Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus in their first year of what figures to be a rebuild.
Trading Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers only drove home the theme of a rebuild, and Smith is the next notable name shipped out after his request.
The team also traded defensive end Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
It is a difficult blow for the Bears, who surely envisioned Smith as an important part of their efforts to build a contender in the NFC North before things went south.
The 25-year-old wasted no time making an impact after Chicago selected him with the No. 8 overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft. He posted 121 tackles and five sacks as a rookie for a team that won the division and relied on a strong defense, much like it had throughout its history.
It was a sign of things to come as the linebacker tallied more than 100 tackles in each of his first four seasons in the league.
He finished the 2021 season with 163 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, three passes defended and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. He became the first player since Ray Lewis to post 300 or more tackles and 30 or more tackles for loss during a two-season span.
Despite those efforts, Smith is still waiting to be named to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro First Team. That will surely come, but it won't happen for the Bears after this trade.
He joins another team with a proud history of strong linebacker play in Baltimore and will look to maintain that tradition. He will also be surrounded by talented defensive playmakers such as Calais Campbell, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and can help elevate the unit to be one of the league's best.
If it is, Smith will be right back in the middle of a playoff race for the 5-3 Ravens.