It seemed as though the Ravens added another major piece to their defense by reuniting with Za’Darius Smith. However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that he is in fact not signing with Baltimore (Twitter link).
It was announced Wednesday that the former Packer was going back to Baltimore on a four-year, $35M deal. The news came after Smith, 29, was released by Green Bay in a cost-cutting move. The Packers were open to keeping him at a reduced cost, but the split seemed to be mutual.
That opened the door to a reunion with Baltimore, where he spent the first four years of his career and established himself as a productive pass rusher. Between the familiarity with the organization and the lack of proven veterans at the position for the Ravens, the reported deal made perfect sense. Now, however, the former fourth rounder will remain on the open market.
At his media availability announcing the additions of safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Morgan Moses, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t confirm the Smith deal. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic reports that the Ravens “felt like they had a verbal agreement” in place with Smith (Twitter link). While he adds that a deal with Baltimore is technically still possible, he states that “it seems unlikely this [situation] is salvageable”.
Smith’s decision comes one day after the edge rusher market changed dramatically. Von Miller, Chandler Jones and Uchenna Nwosu all found new homes in free agency. That, coupled with the recent trades of Khalil Mack and Yannick Ngakoue, should place Smith at the top of the list with respect to the remaining names available.
The Ravens, meanwhile, will now search for a backup plan at the position. With plenty of question marks remaining in their front seven and limited cap space to work with, they face a much different situation than they did 24 hours ago.