After making two notable signings on Tuesday, the Ravens made another big splash on Day 3 of free agency. Late into Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Ravens had agreed to a four-year, $35 million contract with edge rusher Za’Darius Smith.
Former Packers’ pass rusher Za'Darius Smith is signing a four-year, $35 million deal that has a max value of $50 million with the Baltimore Ravens, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2022
Schefter also noted that the deal has a maximum value of up to $50 million, so the exact details regarding incentives and guaranteed money are likely still to come. Nevertheless, this is a big investment by Eric DeCosta and the Ravens’ brain trust to again address one of their biggest positional needs.
Smith was officially released by the Green Bay Packers on Monday as a salary cap casualty, which immediately prompted rumors that the Ravens could sign him. However, speculation on a potential reunion in Baltimore had surfaced prior to that, as the writing had already been on the wall for his departure from Green Bay.
The 29-year-old spent the first four seasons of his career with the Ravens after the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Kentucky. He was a valuable rotational edge rusher for the Ravens for several years and had a breakout campaign in 2018, posting career-best numbers in sacks (8.5), quarterback hits (25) and tackles (45).
He ultimately priced himself out of the Ravens’ range and signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Packers that offseason. In 2019 and 2020, Smith started all 32 games for Green Bay and totaled 26 combined sacks, over 100 total tackles and 60 quarterback hits. He made the Pro Bowl in both seasons and earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020.
This past year, Smith was limited to just one game as a back injury kept him out for almost the entire season. Now, Smith is returning to Baltimore having established himself as one of the better pass-rushers in the league — an area of significant need for the Ravens.
He figures to be an immediate starter an integral part of Mike Macdonald’s defense, the team’s new defensive coordinator who is plenty familiar with Smith’s skill set and play style from many years ago. Smith will join Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh as the Ravens’ top edge rushers on the roster.
This signing, in conjunction with yesterday’s acquisition of Marcus Williams, should go a long way in improving the Ravens’ defense in 2022 and beyond.