Ravens LB Roquan Smith is worth every penny of his historic contract

Ravens, Roquan Smith. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Ravens, Roquan Smith. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens have locked down one of their top pending free agents of 2023, signing Roquan Smith to a massive extension that makes him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in NFL history.

It was love at first sight.

The Ravens acquired Smith in a midseason trade with the Chicago Bears in which the Bears received a second-rounder, fifth-rounder, and linebacker A.J. Klein.

In return, the Ravens received their linebacker of the future as indicated by the monster deal the franchise just gave Smith. On Tuesday, NFL’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Ravens would make Smith the highest-paid linebacker in league history with a five-year, $100 million dollar deal.

The contract includes $45 million in fully guaranteed money and $60 million in total guarantees.

That officially ushers Smith to the top of the linebacker market, surpassing the likes of Indianapolis Colts’ Shaquille Leonard and San Francisco 49ers’ Fred Warner.

In the end, the trade worked out for all parties involved: Smith got paid, the Bears hauled in extra draft picks, and the Ravens secure a dominant linebacker for years to come.

Ravens reward Roquan Smith with the biggest linebacker contract in NFL history

As The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec notes, Roquan Smith’s path to Baltimore parallels that of former Chiefs corner Marcus Peters back in 2019. Nine regular season games was all it took for Smith to prove himself as an irreplaceable member in the Ravens’ defense and a picture-perfect culture fit.

Prior to the trade, the Ravens’ defense had allowed 22.9 points per game, 364.3 total yards per game, 4.4 yards per carry, and a 61.3 percent red zone touchdown rate.

After acquiring Smith, the Ravens’ defense allowed 14.7 points per game (second-best in the NFL), 288.8 total yards per game (third-best in the NFL), 3.5 yards per carry, and a 28.0 percent red zone touchdown rate.

Despite Smith’s relatively small sample size, the Ravens made the right call to extend the newly minted Pro Bowler, and Smith’s locker room presence and arguably weighs as much as his hard-nosed impact on the field.

Moving forward, the Ravens can now build around the 25-year-old Smith, adding to a defense stacked with young players on rookie deals (Kyle Hamilton, Travis Jones) as well as key veteran pieces (Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams) who are already locked in for the next several years.

However, one can’t address the Smith extension without addressing the inevitable question that comes with it: What about quarterback Lamar Jackson?

The franchise tag remains a viable and perhaps the most obvious option. Yet depending on how Smith’s contract money is spread out, the Ravens may still have room to potentially sign Jackson to a long-term contract this offseason.

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For now, congratulations to Smith on his well-deserved extension. He undeniably carries the heart of this elite Ravens defense and will bleed purple for the next half decade.