A little over a year ago, Roquan Smith got his wish. On Halloween 2022, the linebacker was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Baltimore Ravens and immediately found himself in a better situation to achieve his ultimate goal: winning a championship.
The Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card round, but they bounced back, got healthy and currently have the second-best record in the NFL at 7-2.
Smith tried to negotiate a new deal in Chicago before requesting a trade, taking him back and then starting the season with the Bears. The contract he sought was given to him in Baltimore, with the Ravens signing him to a five-year, $100 million deal ($45 million guaranteed).
A lot has changed for Smith in a year. He now has financial security and a chance at a championship. It could be worse, as he said Albert Breer from Sports Illustrated. He could still be in Chicago.
“And just thinking about it from the perspective of having the opportunity to compete year in and year out with the talent that we have. Man, it makes me so happy just knowing that my career isn’t going down the drain in the sense that I’m playing somewhere where I’m not really competing for a title.”
Both teams’ post-trade records are as follows: Baltimore is 12-6, while Chicago is 2-16, which includes nine straight losses to end the 2022 NFL season after Smith was dealt. The Ravens are heading for their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons. The Bears are on track to miss for the fourth time in five seasons.
Smith is now part of the league’s second-ranked defense, averaging 262.6 yards allowed per game and an NFL-best 13.8 points allowed per game. His impact continued in Baltimore as he is fourth in total tackles (87) heading into Week 10.
The Ravens’ history of strong defenses is something that impressed Smith during his one-year stay in Baltimore.
“Honestly, man, it means a lot to me to be a Raven,” Smith says. “And the way they brought me in when I was in Chicago and all the love they showed me during my time here, I can only imagine it’s only going to get bigger. So when I think about it from that perspective, I pride myself on playing until the final whistle and playing every single play as hard as I can. But there’s something about just being here that makes you want to try harder, given all the legends that came before me, like Ed [Reed]beam [Lewis]beard [Scott] …
“When I think about it from that perspective, man, it makes me proud just knowing that I’m playing behind such a historic tradition. And folks, that was long before that [me], Man. How they set the standard for being a raven. I think it’s about spoiling the ball for the defensive side… and not giving the offense time to breathe. They are suffocating. And when they come up for air, you bring them right back down. I feel like it’s about being a raven.”
Smith has a chance to win in Baltimore, which he thinks could happen in Chicago. The Bears had a 12-4 record in his rookie season in 2018 and made the playoffs twice in his four full seasons there. But while the Ravens now approach each season with new vigor and are prepared to win, things didn’t work out that way in his old home. Justin Fields is still developing as a quarterback, but they added Montez Sweat on defense and will have two first-round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Intelligent management can create a permanent competitor. Smith didn’t expect it to happen so quickly in Chicago, and now he’s closer to a championship than ever before.