Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Ravens signing Za’Darius Smith: Former Packers pass rusher headed back to Baltimore on multiyear deal

NFC Divisional Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers
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The Baltimore Ravens are bringing back a familiar face to fill arguably one of its biggest areas of need. CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora has confirmed that the club has signed veteran pass rusher Za’Darius Smith. Specifically, Baltimore has inked Smith to a four-year, $35 million deal that has a max value of $50 million, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.  

This is a homecoming for Smith as he spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Ravens after the team drafted him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Kentucky. Over that tenure, the now 29-year-old played in 58 games (16 starts) and totaled 18.5 sacks and 71 total tackles. 

He left the organization in 2019 when he signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Packers and blossomed into a legit starting-caliber player while in Green Bay. He became a Pro Bowl pass rusher with the Packers, posting back-to-back double-digit sacks seasons in 2019 and 2020. He was also named a second-team All-Pro in 2020 after totaling 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 16 games played (all starts). 

This past season, Smith was limited to just one game in the regular season due to a back injury that he reported to training camp with. He played just 18 snaps in Green Bay’s season opener against the Saints and was later placed on injured reserve. He underwent back surgery on Sept. 27 and was sidelined throughout the regular season. However, Smith was activated off of injured reserve in late January before the Packers’ divisional round matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. He played just 35% of the snaps in that 13-10 loss but was able to register a sack in that game. 

Smith now joins a Ravens defense that could use some help rushing the passer. Pro Football Focus gave Baltimore a pressure grade that ranked 20th in the NFL last season and the unit’s 34 total sacks ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2021. The addition of a healthy Smith should help improve that unit going forward. 

Because Smith was released by the Packers on March 14, he also will not count toward the Ravens’ compensatory pick formula. 

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