Smith earned the deal he was looking for in Baltimore, which would make him the highest-paid inside linebacker in league history with a $20 million average. The Colts’ Shaquille Leonard ($19.7) and 49ers’ Fred Warner ($19) are right behind Smith.
Smith has been everything the Ravens could have wanted and more. Before Smith arrived, the Ravens ranked 20th in points per game allowed and 24th in yards per game allowed. They rank second in both categories since, giving up just 14.7 points per game.
Smith has 86 tackles, two sacks and one interception in nine games as a Raven. He finished the regular season with the third-most tackles in the league (169) and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. He’s still just 25 years old.
He had one of his best performances of the year in Cincinnati last week, flying around the field to make a season-high 16 tackles. He was also a physical tone-setter in Baltimore’s defense, showing he’s ready to lead the unit into a playoff rematch against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Asked about Smith’s leadership Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Smith is one of the best he’s seen.
“He has been fantastic that way. He’s all about it. He doesn’t worry about what people think; he doesn’t care,” Harbaugh said.
Baltimore Ravens, LB Roquan Smith agree to terms on a five-year, $100 million contract - Brad Spielberger
AN IMPACT ADDITION FROM DAY 1
Putting positional value to one side to evaluate the player in a vacuum, Smith and the Ravens have been a fantastic match since his arrival on trade deadline day.
The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has produced a career-high 84.7 PFF grade since joining the team, a mark that leads all Ravens defenders this season. Not only that, but it’s the highest single-season grade by a Ravens linebacker since Ray Lewis in 2009.
FRANCHISE TAG IN STORE FOR LAMAR JACKSON?
Smith couldn’t have landed with a better club at the deadline — not only because of his fit on the field but more so because teams only get to use one franchise tag per offseason, and the Ravens have to save theirs for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This is why the deal was agreed to in principle in early January, as Baltimore didn’t want to let Smith reach free agency and get into a bidding war. The Ravens surely planned for this outcome after parting with a second-round pick and more to acquire Smith.
Baltimore has a lot of money tied up in defensive players who aren’t on the generally more-expensive defensive line, with cornerback Marlon Humphrey and safety Marcus Williams both among the 10 highest-paid at their respective positions, as well.
Expect the Ravens to place the franchise tag on Jackson in early March and then work to iron out a long-term deal. They can afford to, so there’s no reason for concern there, but the cap is getting really tight.
NFL Offensive Player Rankings after the 2022 regular season; three playoff offenses with serious concerns - David Carr
10-7 · AFC No. 6 seed
The Ravens’ offensive success is dependent on Lamar Jackson’s status. And on that front, John Harbaugh didn’t provide any clarity on Monday. The former MVP hasn’t played a single down since suffering a knee injury in Week 13. When right, Lamar’s the ultimate X-factor — a lightning bolt that can strike at any moment, turning nothing into a highlight-reel touchdown with his otherworldly abilities — but there’s just no way to know how healthy he is at the moment.
The Ravens have averaged the fewest points per game (12.5) in December and January of any team to make the playoffs since the 1997 Buccaneers (12.3 ppg). Baltimore just doesn’t have enough juice in the pass game. The Ravens boast the NFL’s second-ranked rushing offense, but a lack of bona fide weapons beyond tight end Mark Andrews limits the unit tremendously.
Baltimore lives in a ground-and-pound approach and runs the ball as well as anybody, but it can’t keep up with AFC powerhouses like the Bengals, Sunday night’s opponent. If the Ravens are forced into obvious passing downs, it could be another looonnnggg night for Harbaugh’s team.
Power Ranking Every Team in the NFL Postseason - Austin Gayle
8. Baltimore Ravens (10-7 | +3700)
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there’s a “strong chance” that Lamar Jackson will start for the Ravens in their wild-card matchup with the Bengals on Sunday. Jackson hasn’t practiced in more than a month and reportedly still has swelling in his knee, but Baltimore simply doesn’t have a chance against Cincinnati without him. The Ravens averaged 24 points per game with Jackson in weeks 1 through 12; they’ve averaged just 12.5 points per game since he’s been out. The good news is that the team’s defense has stepped up in Jackson’s absence and should give Baltimore a chance against most AFC playoff opponents. Since Week 13, the Ravens rank second in points allowed per game (13.5).
2023 NFL wild-card playoff picks: Tom Brady’s Buccaneers shock Cowboys, Jaguars upset Chargers - John Breech
No. 6 Baltimore (10-7) at No. 3 Cincinnati (12-4)
When you’re the defending AFC Champions, it’s hard to go into the playoffs with a chip on your shoulder, but it feels like the Bengals will be going into the postseason with a chip the size of Ohio on their shoulders. Not only did the NFL hose them over with the revamped playoff format in the AFC, but the Bengals have also become the forgotten little brother in the conference thanks to the Chiefs and Bills.
I’m not sure a 12-4 team can be considered underrated, but I’m starting to feel like the Bengals were one of the most underrated teams in the NFL this year. If you look at their record, you could easily argue that two of their four losses were somewhat flukey.
The Bengals have only lost ONE game this year where all their key players were fully healthy and that came in Week 5 against the Ravens and that’s one reason why this game is so interesting. I don’t want to say the Ravens defense has figured out Joe Burrow, but they’ve certainly stepped up their game over the past 12 months. After getting embarrassed by Burrow in 2021 — the Bengals QB averaged 470 passing yards per game against them — the Ravens didn’t even let him hit 470 yards total this year (Burrow threw for 217 in Week 5 and 215 in Week 18).
If the Ravens can once again hold Burrow under 225 yards, then they’re going to have a chance to win on Sunday, and there’s definitely a good chance that could happen. The Bengals lost right guard Alex Cappa to injury in Week 18, which means they’ll be missing both their starting right guard and right tackle this week (RT La’el Collins was lost for the season in Week 16). With the right side of the offensive line being completely revamped, Burrow could be facing a lot of pressure, which could keep his numbers down.
I think the Ravens defense will keep this close for three quarters, but the Bengals will pull away late.
THE PICK: Bengals 27-17 over Ravens