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 next year, along with reserve inside linebacker A.J. Klein.

Smith, a two-time All-Pro, has an NFL-best 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’ front office 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. Josh Bynes and Queen have been uneven in their second year together as starters, with the 33-year-old Bynes limited by his average range and a recent quadriceps injury and 23-year-old Queen struggling early.

The blockbuster trade for 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 tied for second in the NFL in stops this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which the analytics site defines as an offensive gain on first down that is kept to less than 40% of the line to gain, less than 50% 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 in 2022 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. With the Ravens expected to designate quarterback Lamar Jackson with the franchise tag next offseason if the sides can’t agree to a long-term deal, their hopes for retaining Smith could rest on his openness to a long-term deal. If he signs a significant free-agent contract elsewhere, the Ravens could recoup a compensatory pick in the 2024 draft.

The Ravens’ calculations on Smith could affect their handling of Queen, the 2020 first-round pick who’s shown flashes of star potential over 41 up-and-down starts. The Ravens will likely have until May to decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Queen’s rookie deal, which runs through 2023.

In trading for Smith, the Ravens sacrificed only a sliver of their limited salary cap space. According to ESPN, the Bears will take on the majority of Smith’s remaining salary for this season, leaving Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta with some financial flexibility as he considers other roster upgrades ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m trade deadline.

“I know Eric and I know how Eric is,” coach John Harbaugh said shortly before Fox Sports first reported the Ravens’ trade for Smith. “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.”

Smith now has a week to prepare for the Ravens’ “Monday Night Football” matchup against the New Orleans Saints, their final game before a Week 9 bye. He’ll join a talented but inconsistent defense flush with first- and second-round talent, including Queen; outside linebackers Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo; cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters; and safeties Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton. (Williams and Ojabo are still recovering from injuries and are not expected to play Monday.)

The Ravens, hanging on to their lead in the AFC North, have been aggressive at the deadline under DeCosta, but the reported package for Smith represents his biggest swing yet. In 2019, the Ravens traded inside linebacker Kenny Young and a fifth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for Peters. In 2020, they parted with a third- and fifth-round pick to acquire defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Minnesota Vikings.

Smith will arrive in Baltimore with similar expectations. He recorded 607 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 16 1/2 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, 20 passes defended and seven interceptions over 4 1/2 seasons with the Bears. He missed just four games over his Bears career and played every defensive snap for Chicago this season.

Smith emerged as a possible trade target before the season after he staged a hold-in during Chicago’s training camp amid stalled contract negotiations. He made a public request for a trade, saying in a statement that the team didn’t value him and refused to negotiate in good faith. Smith and Bears general manager Ryan Poles eventually came to an understanding that he would play this year for the Bears without a new contract, and he entered the season as one of four team captains.

He’ll leave a Bears team mired in another rebuild for a Ravens team with Super Bowl ambitions.

Chicago Tribune contributed to this article.



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