Linebacker Daryl Smith received quite the present on his 32nd birthday in the form of a new four-year contract to remain with the Ravens.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 32-year-old agreed to a deal worth $16.1 million to remain with the same defense he led in tackles last season while taking over the position occupied by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.
Smith signed a one-year deal, $1.125 million deal that included an additional $1 million in playing-time incentives after he was limited to just two games in his ninth and final season in Jacksonville where he started his career. An early-June addition to the roster, the veteran went on to collect 123 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions to lead a defense that finished 12th in total yards and points allowed in 2013.
“I knew it was a one-year deal, but I was hoping I could come in and prove I could still play and I could still do this for a while,” Smith said in a team statement. “You really don’t know at the time. But as the season progressed, I felt better with the team and how I played, and I definitely wanted to be back.”
The sides had remained in negotiations for a couple weeks but struggled to close the gap as other veteran inside linebackers such as the 30-year-old D’Qwell Jackson and Karlos Dansby, 32, found deals averaging in the neighborhood of $5.5 million to $6 million per season. However, the market seemed to dry up inside linebackers as Smith elected to remain in Baltimore.
Smith becomes the fourth key player the Ravens have re-signed over the last two weeks, joining tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones. The Ravens also were hosting veteran wide receiver Steve Smith on a free-agent visit on Friday, adding to the excitement of the day.
“There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from Daryl Smith to stay a Raven,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a released statement. “He fills a need for us at a high level. Just look at his production last season, plus he gave us leadership and maturity. He’s tough, he’s consistent, he’s intelligent, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day.”
Stronger in pass coverage than against the run last year, Smith is expected to be paired with 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense with Josh Bynes serving as the primary backup. Smith and Brown should be a formidable duo in pass coverage, but questions will remain about their ability against the run as the veteran struggled to shed blocks last season and the 23-year-old Brown is trying to gain upper-body strength after being listed at a light 235 pounds during his rookie year.
The 6-2, 248-pound linebacker was one of only three NFL defensive players — the others being Lavonte David and Karlos Dansby — to post at least 100 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions in 2013. Smith has tallied 100 tackles in eight of his 10 professional seasons.
Smith was originally a second-round pick from Georgia Tech in the 2004 NFL draft.