When Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta acquired two-time All-Pro Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears a day before the midseason trade deadline, he did more than just upgrade one of the team’s inside linebacker positions. The former first-round pick’s presence gives the team and first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald the best tandem in the league according to third-year pro Patrick Queen.
“I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I just feel like that’s how it’s going to be,” he said in a press conference on November 2, 2022. “[We’re] two guys that fly to the ball, get their hands on the ball, get in the backfield, and disrupt stuff. So, we’re definitely going to wreak havoc.”
Queen is also a former first-round pick and while he hasn’t had the same meteoric rise or played with the same level of consistency to start his career as Smith. However, this year he appears to be developing into the well-rounded disruptive force the Ravens envision when they selected him as No. 28 overall out of LSU in the 2020 NFL Draft.
He leads the Ravens in total tackles and has played his best this past month in which he recorded 34 total tackles including four for a loss, two sacks, four quarterback hits, one interception, one pass deflection, and one forced fumble.
Queen understands how those outside of the organization or without a deeper understanding of the game would perceive the team trading for Smith as an indication of a lack of faith in the current players at the position already on the roster including himself. While some think that his future with the team and spot in the starting lineup is in jeopardy, he is “ecstatic” about the opportunity to play with and next to a great player.
“Most people thought I would take it the wrong way, when honestly, if you’ve got somebody that quick playing on the other side of you [that] you get to learn from and see the things that he does, you just get a piece of his game,” he said.
Smith is just as excited to get the chance to play alongside Queen, sees a lot of similarities between them, and can’t wait for them to get on the same page so that they can terrorize opposing offenses.
“The guy is lightning; the guy plays good ball,” he said in his introductory press conference on November 2, 2022. “He runs and hits just like myself, so I’m excited for the duo. I think it’s going to be very special, especially once we get rolling.”
Anticipated Impact of Smith on Defense
The two-time All-Pro’s arrival allows the entire front seven to be more flexible and diverse with the way they can line up, bring pressure, and mix and disguise coverages at both the second and third levels. He is a natural fit not just for this defensive unit but the organization as a whole with the kind of complete player he is and the dangerous difference making talent he possess.
“He gets the ball in his hands a lot. He’s just an all-around playmaker [and] physical cat. He’s just born to be a Raven,” Queen said.
Smith’s ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways will allow the Ravens’ edge defenders and interior defensive linemen more freedom and schematic flexibility to have more focused roles instead of shouldering several responsibilities on a given play.
“The way we play the run, that’s just how it is. We want to free it up for them and stuff like that,” outside linebacker Odafe Oweh said in a press conference on November 2, 2022. “If we have a guy like that who can make his own plays, and stuff like that, it’s only going to make it easier for us.”
New Addition Isn’t Worried About Contract Situation
As exciting as the trade for Smith is for this year’s team, he is only under contract through the end of the 2022 season. Like their MVP-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, he is playing on the final year of his rookie contract after having his fifth-year option excerised and represents himself without the aid of an agent.
The Ravens likely wouldn’t have parted with the draft compensation they gave up to get him if they didn’t intend to include him in their long-term plans so he’s probably won’t be a half-season rental. However, also like Jackson, he isn’t thinking about or addressing a potential contract extension and is completely focused on helping this year’s team be the best they can and go as far as possible.
“My main focus right now is learning the playbook, getting a great relationship with the guys and then going from there,” said Smith.
“Life happens at times. I got traded, so initially I was shocked,” he added. “But I’m excited to be here. [It’s] a good group of guys, guys that are contending for a title, and that’s what I’m in the game to play for.”
Prior to last year’s injury-derailed season, the Ravens had made the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons from 2018-2020 since Jackson became the full-time starter midway through both he and Smith’s rookie years. Unfortunately, they have yet to advance past the divisional round of the AFC playoffs while teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and division rival Cincinatti Bengals have made it to a conference title game at least once over that span.
“I know they’re trying to get over the hump and win the big game,” Smith said. “So, I feel like I can be one of the guys that can help with that, so I’m excited to be able to give everything I have to make that happen.”