Coming off back-to-back wins and leading the AFC North entering Week 9, the Ravens have made a significant addition to their defense for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Just over 24 hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline, Baltimore struck a deal with Chicago to acquire two-time second-team All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith in exchange for second- and fifth-round picks as well as veteran inside linebacker A.J. Klein, according to multiple reports. With the 2018 first-round pick out of Georgia playing on his fifth-year option, the Bears will pay $4.833 million of his $5.408 million salary for the remainder of the season to help the Ravens fit him under their salary cap, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Considering Smith was reportedly seeking an extension worth at least $20 million per season, it’s worth noting that the Ravens would likely be able to recoup a third-round compensatory pick if they can’t work out an extension by next March.
Baltimore hadn’t announced the trade as of late Monday, but head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the possibility of a move during his press conference.
“I know how Eric is. I wouldn’t be honest to say he hasn’t talked to me about what he’s trying to do or what he’s thinking about doing or what you can do, but it takes two to tango,” said Harbaugh less than an hour before the trade news broke. “We’ll see how that all goes, but you never know.”
With the 25-year-old Smith currently leading the NFL in tackles, Eric DeCosta has now acquired a defensive standout at the trade deadline in three of his four seasons as general manager with the others being cornerback Marcus Peters in 2019 and edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue in 2020. The move shores up a Baltimore defense that has occasionally been vulnerable against the run and has struggled over the middle of the field against the pass this season. Smith will immediately move into the starting role next to third-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen while 33-year-old veteran Josh Bynes — who missed the Week 8 win over Tampa Bay due to a thigh injury — will shift to a backup role.
Though Smith is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top inside linebackers, there are some differing opinions about his impact with Pro Football Focus grading him 61st or worst among qualified off-ball linebackers in three of the last four seasons. Of course, the former eighth overall pick hasn’t always had a great deal of talent around him in Chicago with many seeing him as a strong scheme fit with the Ravens. He collected 17 tackles — two for a loss — in his only career game against Baltimore last season.
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Smith has registered 607 tackles, 16 1/2 sacks, 20 pass breakups, and seven interceptions in 69 career games.