How Roquan Smith Can Help the Ravens Defense

Roquan Smith Ravens

On the Monday before the trade deadline, the Baltimore Ravens orchestrated a trade to acquire star linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears in exchange for a second-round pick, fifth-round pick, and A.J. Klein. The Ravens will pay less than $600,000 to Smith this season with Chicago eating most of his salary.

Smith was an elite linebacker with the Bears but was due a huge contract at the end of the season. He had demanded a trade before and, with the Bears at 3-5, his trade to a contender makes sense.

Smith brings star power to a Ravens defense that needed stronger linebacker play. The Bears, meanwhile, will look to re-invest the draft capital as they build a new era around quarterback Justin Fields. The team’s poor start to the season was ultimately the reason Smith was traded to the Ravens. Chicago also recently traded away edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The last time Baltimore made a big mid-season trade was when they acquired Marcus Peters. He recorded a pick-six on his Ravens debut and has established himself as a key part of the team.

How Roquan Smith Fits With the Baltimore Ravens

Smith was traded to the Ravens with the expectation that he would make an immediate impact. There is no doubt he will do just that.

The former eighth-overall pick in 2018 has not disappointed so far. A second-team All-Pro on two occasions, Smith was a plug-and-play contributor for the Bears and, over his short career so far, has accumulated 608 tackles, 16.5 sacks and seven interceptions.

Smith’s talent is unquestionable. He joins a Ravens defense that already has a lot of star power. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey are two of the best cornerbacks in the league currently and Kyle Hamilton has been one of the best defensive rookies too. Upfront, the ever-present Calais Campbell has been solid, but it has been Justin Houston and Justin Madubuike who have been turning heads of late.

In Baltimore’s scheme, Smith will likely start at inside linebacker. He will play alongside former first-round pick Patrick Queen, who has struggled in coverage a bit this season. Queen has flashed at times throughout his young career and, if he continues to develop at his current trajectory, him and Smith would make a scary linebacking corps for years to come.

The trade came at a good time for Baltimore. They lost Josh Ross to injury in Week 2. His placement on IR means he could return, but no plans have been made yet. Josh Bynes is another key contributor to the Ravens defense who has seen some injury setbacks. He was inactive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night due to a quad injury.

Thus, with some missing depth, the move for Smith made perfect sense. He is expected to make his Ravens debut against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football in Week 9.

Smith’s Future and Ravens Contracts

A central reason why Smith was traded to the Ravens was that he was due a big contract. With the Ravens giving up a second and a fifth-round pick, it is expected that general manager Eric DeCosta will find a way to pay Smith, as opposed to making this a one-year rental.

Given Smith’s talent and potential, it would be short-sighted to let Smith walk after this season. If they do go down this route, it would most likely result in a third-round compensatory pick for 2024. Thus, it only makes sense for the Ravens to keep the 25-year-old for longer.

If the Ravens are to pay Smith, they may have to let Peters go at the end of the season. Peters suffered an ACL injury last year but has looked solid coming back this year. He is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league and the Ravens have benefitted from having two shutdown corners on the perimeters. But, with Peters in a contract year, there might not be enough cap to pay him and Smith, unless they are both willing to take a pay cut.

One solution to this is somewhat simple. If Baltimore negotiates a long-term deal with Lamar Jackson during the off-season, it would save them a lot of trouble. It would allow them to open more cap space in the near future to pay Smith, Peters, and Jackson. Contract talks with Jackson had stalled earlier in the season and both parties have agreed to halt discussions during the regular season. Jackson had previously said that he expects to spend his entire career in Baltimore, but rumors have swirled saying that he is currently ‘not happy’ with the franchise.