Roquan Smith to become NFL’s highest-paid linebacker with new Ravens contract: report

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The Baltimore Ravens have reportedly agreed to terms with star inside linebacker Roquan Smith on a five-year, $100 million contract.

Smith was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2018 draft, but the Pro Bowl linebacker did not receive the extension offer he deemed worthy of the Bears.

The team eventually decided to trade him to Baltimore in October in exchange for a second and fifth round draft pick. His extension with the Ravens includes $60 million in total commitments, according to the NFL Network.

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Roquan Smith of the Ravens is introduced before the Denver Broncos game on Dec. 4, 2022, in Baltimore.

Roquan Smith of the Ravens is introduced before the Denver Broncos game on Dec. 4, 2022, in Baltimore.
(G Fiume/Getty Images)

Smith started all 17 games this season, and may have had the best season of his professional baseball career. He collected 169 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The former Georgia football player had three interceptions this season and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

He is now the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, the NFL Network reported.

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Now that the Smith deal is complete, the Ravens will likely shift their focus to figuring out Lamar Jackson’s future. The star quarterback has missed the last several games of the regular season with a knee injury, and it is unclear if he will be available for the team’s wild-card playoff game.

Jackson’s contract expires at the end of the season and, like Smith, he has been negotiating with the team without representation from an agent.

Jackson has reportedly asked the Ravens for a fully guaranteed contract similar to Browns Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $230 million deal, which set a record for the highest guaranteed money given to an NFL player. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported in September that Jackson turned down a deal with Baltimore worth about $250 million in pursuit of a fully guaranteed contract.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith meets with reporters after the Steelers game in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith meets with reporters after the Steelers game in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Don Wright)

If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the team will likely put Jackson on waivers. Although it is possible that the one-time NFL MVP could leave the Ravens in the offseason.

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Smith’s presence in Baltimore has energized the Ravens’ defense, which has given up just over 16 points twice since his arrival. Third-year linebacker Patrick Queen had to deal with fewer double teams because of Smith, which allowed him to be more productive.

Alvin Kamara of the Saints tackles Roquan Smith of the Baltimore Ravens at Caesars Superdome on Nov. 7, 2022, in New Orleans.

Alvin Kamara of the Saints tackles Roquan Smith of the Baltimore Ravens at Caesars Superdome on Nov. 7, 2022, in New Orleans.
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Smith will now become the only inside linebacker to earn $20 million per season. He surpasses Indianapolis Colts quarterback Shaquille Leonard as the league’s highest-paid linebacker in terms of average annual value. Leonard makes $19.7 million per season.

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Over the past five seasons, Smith, Leonard and Steelers linebacker TJ Watt are the only defensive players to record at least 15 sacks and five interceptions.

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