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Self-aware Bears plan for a potentially bright future

Mike Florio and Chris Simms share their thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens acquiring Roquan Smith, and discuss how Smith can elevate the Ravens' defense into a special unit.

The Bears have followed a memorable Monday night win in New England by trading away a couple of their best players. So with pass rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith gone only four days apart, what are the Bears trying to do?

Obviously, they’re not trying to do everything they can to win every possible game in 2022. Whether that’s tanking or rebuilding or something in between doesn’t matter, as long as they don’t actually admit to tanking.

They’re necessarily admitting that the path to the postseason is narrow for 2022. They’ve faded into the Minnesota rearview mirror for the NFC North crown, and with both the Cowboys and Giants poised to capture two of the three wild-card berths, the Bears would have a very hard time emerging from a scrum that will include the Packers, the Commanders (yes, the Commanders), and the second- and third-place teams in the NFC West (currently, the 49ers and Rams).

The moves also reflect a recognition that Quinn was likely going to be cut after the 2022 season, and that it was unlikely that they’d keep Smith in 2023.

They could have held onto Smith, letting him leave via free agency and potentially getting a third-round compensatory pick in 2024. If, however, they plan to make a splash in free agency when March arrives, they wouldn’t have gotten anything for Smith.

The Bears also are paying millions to both players for the rest of the season, which basically amounts to buying future draft picks. They’ve added a second-, fourth-, and fifth-rounder for 2023.

And 2023 is when things will get rolling. Forget about 2022. If Aaron Rodgers retires (or even if he doesn’t), the division could be wide open by next year. The Bears are planning to try to take it over.

It’s a form of tanking. It’s strategically doing less now in the hopes of doing more later. And, again, as long as no one admits to it, the league will never do anything about it.