I almost included this in my power rankings, but it started getting long and I’m still up watching Baltimore dismantle New Orleans and words keep coming. Short story: I love the Ravens trade for Roquan Smith. Even more than that. I don’t know how to express how great this trade could be for the Ravens. And it goes deeper than just how good he is or how he fits into the Ravens defense. Much deeper. Long story: I love writing too much so bear with me as I lay it out in a long, drawn out explanation before I get to my point.
Background, Because it’s Important
First we go back and look at why Roquan Smith was traded from the Bears to the Ravens. Roquan represents himself in contract negotiations and this being his 5th year option season, he tried to work with the Bears on an extension. Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, the Bears low-balled him with a backloaded contract that lacked guarantees. Not shocking coming from Ryan Poles and the Bears dysfunctional front office. So instead of finally coming around and valuing his best defensive employee, Poles decided to trade him away to the Ravens.
As it turns out, the Ravens already have their own superstar who happens to be playing his 5th year option season, who represents himself in contract negotiations, and who turned down a long term extension offer. Spoiler: it’s Lamar Jackson. The offer Lamar received reportedly included $133 million guaranteed. The actual amount offered is irrelevant; the guarantees are all that matters when one hit can end a career. The full deal was $250 million over 5 years starting next year, so basically a 6 year deal worth $274 million including his 5th year contract this season. But none of that matters if the team gives themselves an out to dump him after 2 or 3 of those years.
Here’s Why That Offer Sucks Tangent
This all happened about 5 months after DeShaun Watson got $230 million fully guaranteed over 5 years from the Browns. An offer of almost $100 million less guaranteed than that won’t cut it. I know GMs and owners would love to pretend Watson’s contract never happened, but it did, and now you need to explain to Lamar why his MVP trophy and generational talent is worth $100 million less than Watson’s year out of football and somehow still growing list of sexual assault accusers.
No, sorry, I’m not done with that tangent yet. This is a numbers paragraph… skip if you want, but it’s shocking to behold. Watson’s first year of his contract was designed so that he would still make almost all his money even with a suspension, which was expected. His base salary this year is $1 million and the bonus (guaranteed) is $45 million. So his 11 game suspension, which is roughly 65% of the season, means he will forfeit 65% of that $1 million base salary, and keep the full $45 million bonus. Just a few more numbers, hang in there. Okay, so that means DeShaun Watson this season will serve an 11 game suspension and still be guaranteed to make just under 34%, a full 1/3 of the entire amount guaranteed to Lamar Jackson over the next 6 years. That’s gross. Slight tangent on the tangent… anyone think the effect of Watson’s contract on Lamar’s negotiations is some kind of super delayed karma from Art Modell selling (out) Cleveland for Baltimore? I could talk about this stuff all day.
Back on Topic, and the Point I’ve Been Getting To
The Ravens now have a QB on offense who is betting on himself and guaranteeing himself a bigger and more respectful contract with every yard and every win. And with this trade, they now have a QB on defense who is betting on himself and guaranteeing himself a bigger and more respectful contract with every tackle and every win.
You hear about teams going all-in on a season and that can mean a lot of things. But I see this as an extremely unique all-in scenario where a leader on each side of the ball is in that pinnacle of contract years, that first and perhaps only chance to be told by their team how they’re valued, and both have already told their respective teams their offer wasn’t good enough. Each of them believes their value is higher, and each came into this season determined to prove it.
After all the complaining we heard from front offices about players not having an agent, the Ravens go out and get themselves another player in the same spot. I’m convinced this star alignment of chips on shoulders is the all-in move the Ravens fully intended to make when they went and got Roquan.