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Late for Work 7/10: ESPN Poll Ranks Roquan Smith No. 2 Off-Ball Linebacker

LB Roquan Smith
LB Roquan Smith

Roquan Smith Ranked No. 2 Off-Ball Linebacker, Patrick Queen an Honorable Mention

The trade for linebacker Roquan Smith last October provided an instant boost for Baltimore's defense and team.

After being named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career in 2022, Smith is ranked as the No. 2 off-ball linebacker in a poll among NFL executives, coaches and players conducted by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

"I can't believe [the Bears] let him out of their building," an NFL coordinator said to Fowler. "He's a stud. He's everything a linebacker is supposed to be. Doesn't have a weakness. Intelligence, versatility, consistent tackler, plus athleticism."

The dominant season by Smith leapfrogged him from No. 5 in the 2022 offseason rankings, according to Fowler. Fred Warner of the 49ers was the only off-ball linebacker ranked higher than Smith in Fowler's poll.

"He jumped three spots in this year's rankings thanks to a first-team All-Pro season in 2022, registering 4.5 sacks, three interceptions and 169 tackles," Fowler wrote. "Smith was tied for second in the league in stuffs with 21."

Smith was also named one of the ten defensive players in 2023 who could have the biggest impact by CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin.

"Smith was already a top-shelf linebacker with the Bears, but he played with added menace upon his midseason trade to Baltimore, quickly taking over as the heart and soul of the defense," Benjamin wrote. "Still just 26, he should be even more comfortable with his teammates this time around. If he even comes close to replicating his debut impact, he'll help Baltimore back to the playoffs."

The addition of Smith also benefitted linebacker Patrick Queen, who was named an honorable mention in the off-ball category and was complimented by an AFC scout.

"Hard hitter, versatile, fits the physical Baltimore culture," an AFC scout said to Fowler. "Was surprised to see they didn't pick up his fifth-year option, but it's hard to pay two linebackers when you have to pay a quarterback."

Better, Same or Worse? Pundit Judges Ravens 2023 Offensive Roster

After the Ravens' offseason moves, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley has examined each position group and judged it better, worse, or the same as last season. Here are some of Hensley's observations:

Running back: Better

"Even without a major addition, this group should be better — and more explosive — because Dobbins and Edwards are now two years removed from devastating knee injuries. There will be extra motivation for Dobbins and Edwards, both of whom are in contract years," Hensley wrote. "It's a little surprising that Baltimore hasn't added a veteran running back for insurance if Dobbins or Edwards gets hurt again. Ricard, a four-time Pro Bowl fullback, will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing hip surgery this offseason."

Wide receiver: Much better

"It's hard to remember the last time the Ravens upgraded a position group as significantly as this one. Baltimore spent more than it ever has by signing Beckham to a one-year, $15 million deal and then drafted Flowers in the first round," Hensley wrote. "There really is no comparison between the top four projected wide receivers this year (Beckham, Flowers, Bateman and Agholor) to the end of last season (Robinson, Watkins, Duvernay and Proche)."

Offensive Line: Little worse

"This could end up being a top-five offensive line in the league. Stanley started looking like a Pro Bowl left tackle again last year, and Linderbaum is starting his second full season," Hensley wrote. "The concern is the hole at left guard after not re-signing Powers and the increasing age on the right side with Zeitler (33 years old) and Moses (32). It looks like the competition at left guard will come down to Aumavae-Laulu, Simpson or Mekari."

"Firework" Trade Idea Lands Chase Young in Baltimore

An area the Ravens have been speculated to address as training camp approaches is edge rusher, with free agent outside linebacker Justin Houston the player most often mentioned. But an intriguing trade idea from Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine has the Ravens acquiring edge rusher Chase Young for linebacker Patrick Queen and a 2024 fourth-round pick.

"It feels like the Baltimore Ravens are the forgotten contender in the AFC," Ballentine wrote. "But if the Ravens want to continue to contend in the conference that boasts Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, they have to play great defense. Adding an edge-rusher such as Chase Young would go a long way in accomplishing that goal. Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo are a promising young duo, but Young would add another young option who demonstrated a high ceiling when he won Rookie of the Year in 2020."

However, there is caution with Young, who is returning from a non-contact ACL injury suffered in November 2021, which sidelined him for all but three games in 2022. Young, who racked up 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown his rookie season in 2020.

Quick Hits

  •'s Nick Shook included safety Kyle Hamilton to his All Under-25 Team. "Hamilton didn't really play a true safety spot for much of 2022, instead finding a role as a jack of all trades for Baltimore," Shook wrote. "Still, he earned PFF's top defensive grade among safeties, and now he's stepping into an expanded role. The physical traits that made him a tantalizing prospect coming out of Notre Dame have translated, and it will be interesting to see just how quickly he takes another step in Year 2."

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