For decades the Ravens defense was described in many different ways, none of which that were exactly inviting to an opposing offense. Bullies. Physical. Imposing. Intimidating. Teams knew that when they visited Baltimore, the plane ride home wasn’t going to be all that comfortable. But that hasn’t been the case for quite some time. Since the departures of Messrs. Lewis, Reed, Ngata and Suggs the Ravens have been missing dawgs. Enter Roquan Smith.
Roquan is a tackling machine. He plays fast. He’s a 3-down player. He’s a fierce competitor who diagnoses quickly and has the ability to make the players around him better. He’s a dawg. And now, he’s a Raven.
To get Roquan the Ravens gave up a 2nd-round pick and a 5th-round pick, both in 2023. The Ravens also sent recently acquired linebacker A.J. Klein to the Bears as part of the package.
Smith will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 season, so there’s some risk in the deal. Roquan has made it clear to the Bears that he wants a $20M+ per year deal. Whether he gets that level of pay from the Ravens or in the open market remains to be seen. But the deal works very well for the Ravens even if Smith is nothing more than a 9+ game rental.
Roquan Smith agendas are in FULL EFFECT pic.twitter.com/LdWX6ZyhZX
— Ramey (@HoodieRamey) October 31, 2022
From a strategic perspective, Roquan immediately boosts the tackling acumen for the Ravens middle-of-the-field, short-to-intermediate defense. Since his arrival in the league as the 8th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Smith has regularly been among the league’s leaders in tackles. Plus, Roquan has 47 tackles-for-loss, 20 passes defended, 20 QB hits, 16 ½ sacks and 7 INT’s to his credit during his 69 game career. Smith is a versatile piece who adds to the multiple looks that defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald can dial up.
The last two players with 300+ tackles and 30+ tackles for loss in a two-year span
2020-21 Roquan Smith
1999-00 Ray Lewis
And guess who leads the NFL in tackles this season too (Smith, 83) pic.twitter.com/xa7MfKsgQI
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 31, 2022
Perhaps the biggest benefactor in the Roquan Smith-to-Baltimore trade is Patrick Queen. Over the past month we’ve seen Queen really settle in and play consistently well. In 2021, we watched his level of play escalate when Josh Bynes was inserted as Queen’s sidekick at inside linebacker. Imagine the uptick Queen and the rest of the front seven will realize when Bynes is replaced by Smith, the 25-year-old, two-time second-team All Pro.
Some may look at this trade as a back-handed slap at Queen. It’s not. The pair should work very well together as Roquan’s presence and skill set will complement that of Queen’s and perhaps free him to what he does best. If Smith is extended beyond 2022, the tandem will take the field together in 2023 during Queen’s fourth season under his rookie contract. It will however, be interesting to see whether or not the Ravens choose to exercise Queen’s fifth-year option if Smith signs an extension.
If Smith tests free agency and leaves, the Ravens will more than likely pick up a third-round comp pick in 2024. It’s a risk worth taking, particularly when you consider the defensive pieces that will be returning soon, such as Tyus Bowser, David Ojabo and Marcus Williams. Macdonald’s unit has the potential to be a formidable defense.
And perhaps the best news of all for Ravens fans, particularly those who still hold out hope that GM Eric DeCosta will land another wide receiver before the 4PM trade deadline on November 1, is the minimal impact this trade has on the Ravens salary cap – less than $78,000.
Based on the below, the net Cap implications of the Smith trade is a loss of just $77,778 in Cap space for the Ravens. The remainder of AJ Klein’s $497,222 salary is replaced by Smith’s $575K salary. This will leave the Ravens with around $3M in Cap space. https://t.co/iYGHYQKb1h
— Brian McFarland (@RavensSalaryCap) October 31, 2022
Welcome to Baltimore Roquan Smith.