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Staff reactions to the Ravens signing LB Roquan Smith to richest ILB deal in NFL history

Baltimore Beatdown reacts to the news of the Ravens signing LB Roquan Smith

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens have signed linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100 million deal with $45 million guaranteed. Below are the reactions from the Baltimore Beatdown staff.

The Ravens signaled they wanted Roquan Smith for the long term when they sent the Chicago Bears a second- and fifth-round pick for him. Yes, they could’ve let him walk and recoup a third-round compensatory pick, but the investment was already there to keep a two-time All-Pro around. In the weeks that followed, Smith showed their investment was sound by playing some of the best inside linebacker play from a Raven since Ray Lewis.

The addition of Smith changed the defense. Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has said it and it’s visible each down. Smith embodies the old-school mentality of Ravens football, being a physical, brutish backer with a new-school speed and coverage ability required by modern day offenses. Yes, it’s a rich deal, but Smith has shown he’s worth the coin in a league desperate for high-caliber linebackers.

This deal needed done as the Ravens couldn’t risk needing to franchise either Smith or quarterback Lamar Jackson if their contract talks stumbled. Now, the Ravens have an All-Pro linebacker for the next five years under contract and the franchise option if need be. — Kyle Barber

From the moment he stepped foot on a football field wearing purple and black, Roquan Smith is one of those players that feels like he should have been a Raven his entire career. He embodies the hard-nosed physical style of football Baltimore has relished for the majority of franchise existence. Smith sets the tone on defense and has helped elevate other players around him to new heights. Such a player is an obvious building block for this organization.

This move also means that the Ravens will have one less priority to juggle this offseason and can use the franchise tag on quarterback Lamar Jackson if a deal is not reached with him in time. I just hope that paying an off-ball linebacker this much money does not prohibit Eric DeCosta from making a splash at pass catcher this offseason. — Dustin Cox

The investment is large, and the position isn’t as valuable in the traditional sense anymore… but if this were going to make sense anywhere, it would’ve been in Baltimore, and as a fan, I’m thrilled to see it happen. Ditto as an analyst, considering the mid-season defensive renaissance that Baltimore enjoyed after trading for Smith, who’s been their highest graded defender by PFF since arriving, and made a number of splash plays that are key for a modern defense that has to defend the spread out, spacing based attacks of 2023. Above all else, it feels like Smith was simply destined to be a Raven… for a defense that’s felt like it lacked some identity at times, his presence is all the more important for that very reason. — Jake Louque

The questions will pile up. Can an off ball linebacker be worth that much? What does this mean for Patrick Queen? What does this mean for Lamar Jackson? Right now, none of that matters. Roquan Smith has been an impactful player from the jump, as soon as he arrived in Baltimore. He makes impact plays and brings a fire this defense was missing before he was here. Roquan was meant to be a Raven.

The Ravens now have Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton for the next three years at a minimum. Defensive importance in Baltimore will never truly leave. Importantly, this opens up the franchise tag for Lamar Jackson next year. — Zach Canter

It always seemed more likely that the Ravens would give Roquan Smith a contract extension as opposed to letting him walk after a half-season rental. However, the timing of this move — days before a wild card playoff game — certainly comes as a surprise. To his credit, Smith has performed at a high level since joining Baltimore and has helped drive a defensive turnaround. He’s been one of the team’s most impactful players over the past couple months, which isn’t shocking given his resume as an All-Pro. Smith is a premier talent at his position in the prime of his career, and it’s always nice to have players like that in the fold.

His position and skill set, though, is not as valuable in today’s pass-happy NFL as it used to be years ago. Because of that, there is a level of opportunity cost in giving a record-setting contract to an off-ball inside linebacker. With that being said, Smith fits the mold of a traditional “Raven” and brings undeniable value to the team both as a player and leader. This move opens the door for more questions surrounding the future of Patrick Queen, using the franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, and more. — Frank Platko

Roquan Smith is one of the best off-ball linebackers in the NFL. However, run defense is the least valuable phase and inside linebacker the least valuable defensive position in the modern NFL. Furthermore, inside linebacker is one of the most dependent and replaceable positions on the field.

The opportunity cost of acquiring Smith and inking him to a position-setting contract is tremendous. The draft picks used to trade for Smith, coupled with the salary cap space he occupies will likely leave the Ravens shorthanded at a more valuable position, such as wide receiver or cornerback, in 2023 and beyond. Tactically, the Ravens defense will have less flexibility to deploy dime and quarter personnel packages that replace linebackers with better coverage safeties.

Contend Every Season teams must make efficient use of their resources to compete at the highest levels. While Roquan will raise the Ravens floor and contribute to regular season success for the duration of his second contract, this decision may ultimately prove detrimental to the team. Continuing to stubbornly adhere an obsolete ‘run the ball and stop the run’ identity despite the Ravens nine-season (and counting) conference championship game drought is highly questionable. - Vasilis Lericos

Roquan Smith is the quintessential Baltimore Raven. His durability, speed, physicality and intelligence or the core tenants of his game. Smith is an extremely capable coverage linebacker that plays perfectly into where the NFL has headed in response to the RPO and spread-centric pass happy game, as defenses are living in the two-high safety, light box world, the value of “spear” defenders, or the spine of a defense, is raised. Smith is the epitome of a modern linebacker in that sense. At the same time, he has the athleticism, technique and brute strength to match five-star, first round type running backs and silence their impact in the run game.

Baltimore’s middle linebacker is among the most renowned and heralded position in sports, much like it is for the Chicago Bears, where Smith started his career. A star at Georgia, top-10 pick and early All-Pro, Smith is the type of player you want as the face of your franchise. Off the field, he’s everything you want your franchise to represent. On the field, he’s a talented, special, physical presence. The Ravens got themselves a good one. — Spencer Schultz