As the Ravens players were busy meeting with Barrack Obama in the White House, the business side of the Ravens organization was busy as well, as they signed the 31 year old Daryl Smith, a linebacker from Jacksonville, to a one year deal.
Until this previous season, Smith was known as a player who did not miss games. A tough, intelligent linebacker, Smith was then sidelined for 14 games last year with a groin injury, the only notable injury of his career. This would ultimately affect his free agent value, so much so that the Ravens would be able to sign him on the cheap in June despite his great football ability.
A second round pick in 2004, Smith has 21.5 career sacks, 6 career INTs, and 9 career FF (Per NFL.com). On a side note, I will not bother attempting to report his amount of tackles, as that is not an official stat of the NFL and therefore differs source to source.
Over the years, Smith has been one of the top 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, but has never gotten the publicity due to his status as a Jaguar. Coming in at 6'2" and 248 lbs, the Georgia native will easily make the move to inside linebacker in the Ravens' base 3-4 defense.
For those wondering, his move from the 4-3 to a 3-4 is nothing of note. The Ravens are hardly ever in their base, and analysts like to make a bigger deal of the differences between the formations than it really is. Smith has proven his worth as a sure tackler with good range and natural instincts.
The question that remains will be his position on the depth chart. There are a lot of unknowns at the two inside linebacker positions in the Ravens defense, as Jameel McClain is fighting back from a spinal cord contusion, 2013 second round pick Arthur Brown is recovering from a sports hernia (which should not affect him in training camp, but he is still an inexperienced rookie), and the remaining players are all young with limited experience on the inside, such as former outside linebacker Albert McClellan and former defensive tackle Bryan Hall.
Coach John Harbaugh has always maintained that the best players will play and there will be a competition for each position. If Smith proves that at 31 years old he can still start, he will. Ideally, he will be a high profile backup as a great insurance policy for McClain and a veteran for Brown.
Many pundits have looked at the Ravens' wide receiver and cornerback battles as the most intriguing during training camp, but the signing of Smith puts a whole new twist for the Ravens' linebackers.
Note- Smith will wear #51, the number previously worn by Brendon Ayanbadejo, who was cut this offseason.