In blockbuster deadline deal, Ravens trade for Bears ILB Roquan Smith, NFL’s leading tackler

BALTIMORE — The Ravens have traded for Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith, a source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed Monday, adding the NFL’s leading tackler a day before the league deadline.

Chicago will reportedly receive a second-round pick in 2023 and the higher of the Ravens’ two fifth-round choices that year, along with reserve inside linebacker A.J. Klein.

Smith, a two-time All-Pro, has an NFL-high 83 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks, four tackles for loss and two interceptions this season. He’s expected to pair with Patrick Queen in the middle, giving the Ravens one of the NFL’s fastest inside linebacker duos, and solidify a position that has ailed the defense at times.

The Ravens looked for an upgrade at inside linebacker after last season, reportedly offering perennial All-Pro Bobby Wagner a deal comparable in value to the five-year, $50 million contract he ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Rams. Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes have been uneven in their second year together as starters, with the 23-year-old Queen struggling early and the 33-year-old Bynes limited by his average range and a recent quadriceps injury.

Smith gives the Ravens one of the NFL’s best run-stopping linebackers and a potential long-term starter at a hallowed position in Baltimore. He’s third in the NFL in stops, according to Pro Football Focus, which the analytics site defines as an offensive gain on first down that is kept to less than 40 percent of the line to gain, less than 50 percent of the line to gain on second down and any third- or fourth-down play kept without a first down or touchdown.

Through eight games, Smith’s on track to set or tie career highs in tackles, sacks and quarterback hits. He also led all regular Bears contributors with a team-best 4.6% missed-tackle rate, according to Pro Football Reference, an asset on a Ravens defense that’s struggled in space.

In coverage, Smith’s passer rating allowed in coverage (55.3) was the second best on the team, according to PFR. (He’s graded out as a poor pass defender according to PFF, though he had strong grades in coverage the past two years.)

Smith, the No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft, is in the final year of his rookie contract. According to ESPN, the Bears will take on the majority of his remaining salary for this season, leaving Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta with some financial flexibility as the front office considers other roster upgrades ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m trade deadline.

“I know Eric and I know how Eric is,” Harbaugh said shortly before Fox Sports first reported the Ravens’ trade. “I wouldn’t be honest to say he hasn’t talked to me about what he’s trying to do or what he’s thinking about doing or what you can do, but it takes two to tango. So we’ll see how that all goes. But you never know.”

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