The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the NFL‘s most active teams since the free agency period opened. They upgraded their secondary and offensive line by signing safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Morgan Moses. It appeared general manager Eric DeCosta and the front office pulled off another splash by signing Za’Darius Smith.
The Pro Bowl edge rusher became a free agent after getting released by the Green Bay Packers. A reunion with the Ravens seemed to be a done deal, but there’s been a change of plans.
Smith would’ve been a massive get for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but now Baltimore must get back to the drawing board.
Za’Darius Smith is reportedly not reuniting with the Ravens
A reunion with the Baltimore Ravens made so much sense for Za’Darius Smith. The team selected the outside linebacker in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Kentucky.
ESPN previously reported that Smith would be signing a four-year, $35 million contract with his former team. However, sources reveal the former Packers star actually had second thoughts about reuniting with the Ravens.
Ravens insider Jamison Hensley reports that the front office tried to rework the deal to accommodate Smith, but the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement.
Smith likely saw other big-name pass rushers ink lucrative deals and wanted in on the action. The Buffalo Bills signed Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million contract. Meanwhile, Chandler Jones got a three-year, $51 million deal from the Las Vegas Raiders.
The 29-year-old stays on the free-agent market, so it will be interesting to see what develops in the coming days.
Potential landing spots for the Pro Bowler
The Ravens appeared to be an ideal destination for Za’Darius Smith. He’s familiar with the organization, and Baltimore should be a potential Super Bowl contender in 2022. However, the former Packers star could be seeking a more lucrative contract offer.
Multiple other teams should be in the market for pass-rushing help this offseason.
The Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas Raiders, and Philadelphia Eagles already dipped into the free-agent pool by signing Von Miller, Chandler Jones, and Haason Reddick, respectively. That leaves Smith as one of the hottest commodities available at the position.
The Chicago Bears and New York Jets need to improve their pass rush, and they have the money to give Smith a hefty contract. The Jacksonville Jaguars have also been aggressive this offseason, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see them make another splash. Watch out for the Dallas Cowboys, who opened up plenty of cap space with their recent moves.
How does Eric DeCosta and the front office rebound?
Missing out on Za’Darius Smith is a major loss for the Baltimore Ravens. If the two sides could’ve reached an agreement, the Ravens would’ve put themselves in a position to have an elite defense in 2022. Now, they must pivot and continue to fill out the roster.
While the deal with Smith unraveled, the front office bolstered the interior of the defensive line. According to NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport, Baltimore agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal with defensive tackle Michael Pierce. The Samford product began his career with the Ravens. Now, he returns after spending the 2021 season with the Minnesota Vikings.
Considering how aggressive Eric DeCosta has been in free agency, expect him to continue to improve the front seven. Several edge rushers are still available, including Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram III, Jerry Hughes, and Dante Fowler Jr. Bobby Wagner is also still out there. The Ravens could use a legitimate middle linebacker to pair with Patrick Queen.
Money could play a massive role in who Baltimore can land. However, expect John Harbaugh and company to sell these prospective players on potentially making a deep playoff run.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference