Reaction to the Roquan Smith Trade: 'The Fit Is Perfect'
The Ravens and General Manager Eric DeCosta are being praised for reportedly acquiring inside linebacker Roquan Smith in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears yesterday.
To land the 25-year-old Smith, a two-time second-team All-Pro, the Ravens reportedly gave up 2023 second- and fifth-round picks and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein.
"The fit is perfect for this defense and the way they play it schematically, but the fit is also perfect from where we think about the Ravens from a defensive standpoint and their mentality," ESPN's Marcus Spears said. "Downhill, pull-and-pin-type guys in the run game and linebackers that can run east and west, sideline to sideline.
"The Ravens defense just got a lot better. This is not a small trade for this team."
ESPN's Mina Kimes said the move sends a clear message to the rest of the league.
"From the tree tops this tells us that the Ravens want to win the Super Bowl and think they can," Kimes said. "So they're all in. That's what this move is."
The deal reportedly was structured in such a way that it allows the Ravens flexibility to potentially make another move before today's 4 p.m. trade deadline.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bears are paying Smith $4.833 million for the rest of the season while the Ravens are paying him $575,000.
Here are some more examples of pundits lauding the Ravens for the trade:
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Baltimore desperately needed a young emotional leader like Smith, who can step up and make plays at the most critical times. … Smith looks like a steal for a second- and fifth-round pick, and the Ravens wouldn't have made this deal unless they were extremely confident they would sign him to an extension (and not acquire him as a three-month rental)."
The Baltimore Sun’s Ryan McFadden: "This is a huge win for the Ravens. Patrick Queen has played well over the past three games, and pairing him with Smith gives the Ravens one of the best inside linebacker duos in the league. Smith makes the Ravens' defense much more dangerous, especially with outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo returning from injury."
CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards: "The Ravens are certainly getting a playmaker on a defense who has turned things around over the last few weeks. Smith leads the NFL with 83 tackles and always has a knack for finding the football, having two interceptions and 2.5 sacks on the year. Not only has Smith recorded double-digit tackles in all but two games this season, but he has 100-plus tackles in all four of his NFL seasons and his 246 tackles are the fourth-most in the NFL. Grade: B+."
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer: "As for what he'll do for the Ravens on the field, pairing Smith with Patrick Queen off the ball will make it a real challenge for offensive lines to get up on Baltimore at the second level. And Smith is better in coverage than Queen, which should allow coordinator Mike Macdonald a little flexibility in how he deploys the two of them."
Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried: "it's hard to deny that the addition of Smith won't take the Ravens' defense to another level. The Ravens now have star playmakers at every level of the defense. Smith could be the missing piece that ties it all together."
Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi: "Since the departures of [Ray] Lewis, [Ed] Reed, [Haloti] Ngata and [Terrell] Suggs, the Ravens have been missing dawgs. Enter Roquan Smith. Roquan is a tackling machine. He plays fast. He's a three-down player. He's a fierce competitor who diagnoses quickly and has the ability to make the players around him better. He's a dawg. And now, he's a Raven."
Russell Street Report’s Chad Racine: "Brilliant move by Eric DeCosta at a position that could use the help. I wanted him in the beginning of the season but didn't think it would happen. I also think he's a better long-term option than Bobby Wagner due to the age difference with Wagner at 32 and Smith in his prime at 25. Also getting him later in the season lessens the salary cap burden which is a major factor. This defense should be at its peak late in the season which is exactly what we want."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko: "We should have seen this coming: Eric DeCosta making a deadline trade for a big-name defensive player. While inside linebacker isn't the Ravens' biggest area of need, Roquan Smith is an All-Pro talent in the prime of his career at age 25. He instantly makes the Ravens' defense better at all three levels as a legitimate coverage and tackling ace in the middle of the field. Smith has an all-around skill set and the pairing of him with Patrick Queen is promising."
The one criticism of the deal was that giving up a second- and fifth-round pick was too steep for a player who is set to become a free agent after the season if the Ravens are unable to sign him to an extension, which won't be cheap.
"Smith is the NFL's leading tackler, still just 25 years old and a former top-10 draft pick, so the appeal is obvious. I'd quibble with the price, however," The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon wrote. "Giving up a second- and fifth-round selection for an inside linebacker in the final year of his rookie deal who reportedly wants to be among the highest-paid players at his position feels a little too risky, especially with quarterback Lamar Jackson still needing a new contract."
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote: "The top of the linebacker market is around $20 million, which really explains why Smith was traded in the first place. Chicago was believed to be well below that when both sides negotiated over the summer. So, Smith will be looking to replace Indy's Shaquille Leonard ($98.5 million over five years) as the highest-paid off-ball linebacker. Baltimore must decide whether it is willing to meet that demand, franchise-tag him at $18-plus million or let him walk for a compensatory pick. Smith will be one of the most coveted players on the market and should command top dollar."
However, ESPN's Bill Barnwell contended the benefit of the trade for the Ravens doesn't necessarily hinge on extending Smith.
"The Ravens could ink Smith to a long-term deal, which would keep a major player on their roster but essentially mean that they traded for the right to pay him market price," Barnwell wrote. "Alternatively, they could let him walk and, depending on how they manage the rest of free agency, could recoup a mid-round compensatory pick (a year later) for him — and no one works the compensatory pick system quite like the Ravens. If they do that, that makes the terms to acquire Smith feel quite reasonable, especially considering Chicago picked up almost all of his remaining 2022 salary.
"The Ravens could also franchise-tag Smith and push the decision until after 2023, though they'd presumably like to keep that option available for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Ultimately, Baltimore's desire to upgrade makes sense."
Dan Orlovsky: Ravens Are Second-Scariest Team in the NFL
In honor of it being Halloween, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky ranked his top five scariest teams yesterday morning on "First Take." The Ravens were No. 2 on his list — and that was before the news broke about the Smith trade.
"They're 5-3 and they played 'C' games for most of this year," Orlovsky said. "Their three losses they've had massive leads that they've completely blown. Can you imagine what it could be like if Baltimore decides to finish games and play just a little bit better on defense, and Lamar just [protects] the ball a little bit better in the fourth quarter? They're 8-0."
Emergence of Other Pass-Catchers in Absence of Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman Is Encouraging
With All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Rashod Bateman sidelined with injuries during the Ravens' win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday night, Jackson had to spread the ball around, which bodes well for the team going forward.
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely, and wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and James Proche II all had their most productive games of the season, and Devin Duvernay made four catches after having a combined three receptions in the previous two games.
"That's where not having Andrews and Bateman last week could benefit the Ravens in the long run," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "If Jackson gained some confidence in his receivers in that second half, that's a bonus. If some of those previously seldom-used receivers came away from the game feeling good about themselves and their role in the offense, that's good, too. And Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman learned something about his personnel and its potential without a passing game dominated by Andrews or Bateman, that's even better.
"The manner in which they took over the game offensively in the second half should have wide-reaching lessons for Roman and the Ravens. Likely can play and needs to remain a part of the game plan. [Devin] Duvernay should get the ball more. Robinson and Proche are capable of making tough catches, too."