This is the time of year when you can almost hear Ravens Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty crunching numbers at his desk somewhere in the castle.
For those unaware, it is Moriarty’s job to negotiate all of the Ravens’ player contracts, oversee salary cap administration, roster management and the day-to-day operations of the player personnel department. Needless to say, a daunting task of which the results can make or break the franchise for years to come.
The Ravens have made no secret this offseason of their intentions to shore up the offensive line, find a quality receiver who can move the chains and to pick up an athletic free safety. The Ravens cap situation isn’t damning but Moriarty will have his work cut out for him.
Talks have been swirling lately of the potential use of the club’s franchise tag, with tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe being the most likely choices to receive the tag.
While it remains to be seen as to whether the Ravens can find a way to get a long term deal with either Pitta or Monroe done, the Ravens cannot forget about a key cog on the defensive side of the ball in Daryl Smith.
Finding a way to bring back Smith would be ideal for a Ravens defense that he quietly lead in 2013. Initially signed to a one-year deal, Smith provided a smooth transition for the Ravens at the middle linebacker position on the heels of Ray Lewis’s retirement.
Smith shined in 2013 and never looked back. He led the team in total tackles with 123 and his five sacks were good for third on the team. Smith didn’t stop there. The veteran linebacker also had three interceptions, tying him with James Ihedigbo for second on the team, as well as forcing two fumbles. One stat that I had to look at time and time again to make sure I had it right was Smith’s 19 passes defended which only cornerback Lardarius Webb (23) had more of (and rightly so considering his position!)
Smith was one of just three NFL defenders (Lavonte David, Karlos Dansby) to post at least 100 tackles, five sacks and three INTs entering Week 17 of the season. A pretty significant stat considering all the defensive playmakers the NFL produced in 2013.
The former Jaguar turned Raven even drew praise from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the season.
“He looks a lot like Ray Lewis,” Brady said before the teams’ Week 16 clash (or dud, for Ravens fans). “Ray Lewis is Hall of Famer; he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against, but Daryl Smith has really stepped in and been a big leader for them.
“He’s right in the middle of the defense. He’s a really smart, instinctive player, really good against the pass, fast sideline to sideline. He’s got a lot of qualities for a great linebacker. He’s made a lot of plays from an interception return for a touchdown, strip-sacks, fumbles and stuff like that. He’s really good.”
While Daryl Smith will no doubt draw interest from other teams this offseason, it is highly unlikely the team would use the franchise tag on him, considering the projected tag value for a linebacker in 2014 is around $11 million.
I would hope somewhere at the Under Armour Performance Center Moriarty is trying to figure out a way to keep the Ravens’ best defensive player from 2013 around for a while longer.
I can almost hear the sound of his calculator as I type!!!
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