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Roquan Smith becomes NFL’s highest-paid linebacker with new Ravens deal: report

The Baltimore Ravens 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 get an extension offer he deemed worthy from the Bears.

The team ultimately 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 guarantees, 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.
(G Fiume/Getty Images)

Smith started all 17 games this season, and had arguably the best season of his professional football career. He racked up 169 tackle and 4.5 sacks. The former Georgia football standout also had three interceptions this season and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

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

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Now that Smith’s deal is done, the Ravens will likely shift their focus to figuring out the future of Lamar Jackson. The star quarterback has missed the last several games of the regular season due to a knee injury, and it remains 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 along the lines of Browns quarterback 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 declined a deal with Baltimore worth roughly $250 million in the 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 are unable to reach an agreement, it is likely that the team will franchise tag Jackson. Although it is possible the one-time NFL MVP could leave the Ravens in the offseason. 

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

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

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

Smith will now be the only inside linebacker earning $20 million per season. He surpasses Indianapolis Colts defender Shaquille Leonard as the highest-paid linebacker in the league in terms of average annual value. Leonard makes $19.7 million per season.

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


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