Ravens: Za’Darius Smith goes from beloved hero to hated villain

Ravens, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Ravens, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Former Packers pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith will be wearing purple for the 2022 season — but not with the Baltimore Ravens.

Smith recently signed a three-year, $42 million dollar deal with the Minnesota Vikings, making $14 million a year compared to $8.75 million a year had he originally signed with the Ravens.

It’s safe to say Smith has officially burned the bridge to Baltimore, going from a fan-favorite hero to a condemned villain within the span of a week.

Smith’s deal with the Ravens may have been too good to be true, but Eric DeCosta did everything in his power to negotiate a fair agreement.

DeCosta reportedly agreed to two different deals, one of which was proposed by Smith’s agent, but he passed on the third proposal which was a presumably higher amount than the Ravens wanted to pay.

In his first press conference as a Viking, Smith simply said “things didn’t work out” between him and the Ravens and he’s moving on.

The Ravens have no regrets about letting Za’Darius Smith go

In the end, Smith chased the money, and Baltimore can’t really fault him for putting a price on his own worth. The two-time Pro Bowler has played well enough in his last three years in Green Bay (two, if you don’t count his injury year) to warrant a lucrative contract, and Smith was looking for more than just an emotional reunion in Baltimore.

With Smith out of the picture, the Ravens still have a major need at pass-rush and could target a few veteran options remaining in free agency. None boast the same resume as Smith, though, so Baltimore will just have to lower its expectations.

On the bright side, the 2022 NFL Draft is chockful of talented pass-rushers such as Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson, prospects who will likely get taken off the board in a heartbeat.

One of the Ravens’ more realistic prospects was Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo, but Ojabo tore his Achilles during his pro day and likely won’t recover in time to start the upcoming season.

Baltimore shouldn’t regret taking a pass on Smith this offseason, and just like Smith, the team has since moved on and plans to upgrade its outside linebacker unit in some other way.

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Not all that’s past is past, though, and Za’Darius Smith may live long enough to see himself become the villain of Baltimore. Smith is safe in the NFC, for now.