Daryl Smith came to Baltimore with the task of replacing the irreplaceable. He would be only the second player to command the middle of the defense on a full-time basis in team history. Smith was a guy who was underrated in the league, playing his entire career in front of one of most sorry franchises in recent history, the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would leave Jacksonville after nine years as their all-time leading tackler.
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At age 31, Smith signed a one year deal with the Ravens worth $1.125M, $285K guaranteed. The Ravens got a great deal of production in return for the relatively small contract Smith was awarded. 123 tackles, five sacks, 22 passes defensed, three interceptions (one returned for a TD), two forced fumbles. What more could you ask for? His play this year ranked him among one of the top third of all middle linebackers. If the Ravens want to bring him Daryl Smith back, it’s going to cost them more than $1.125M. I’d almost guarantee that.
Currently the Ravens have two inside linebackers under contract. Three if you count on Josh Bynes, an exclusive rights free agent likely to return next year. Would you want to go into 2014 with Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes, and Arthur Brown as your best men in the most important position on the defense? Me neither.
What could the Ravens brass expect to dish out to bring Daryl Smith back into the fold moving forward? I took a look at some ILBs that are comparable to Smith in age, talent, and skill set as a good pass defenders.
Jackson and Tulloch signed their big contracts on the right side of 30. I certainly don’t see Daryl Smith getting offered five years from anyone.
On the lower end, D.J.Williams was coming off a 2012 where he was suspended for nine total games. Six for violating the leagues banned substance policy and supplying a “non-human” urine sample during a drug test. They tacked on three more games for violating the substance abuse policy. That clown Williams still got a higher salary than Daryl Smith. In my opinion, Smith needs a new agent. I digress.
Karlos Dansby is in the same boat as Smith. He is a free agent to be, coming off a one year deal where he had pretty much equaled the production of Daryl Smith. I’m sure both Smith and Dansby are in the market for two to three year contracts, and one could set the bar for the other.
What will that bar be? Vilma and Hawk signed their contracts a couple years younger than Smith will. In Hawks case he actually restructured his deal taking a pay cut and saving the Packers some cap space. His new deal averages him about $3.53M per year. Considering Smith is a few years older than Hawk, I’d say a slightly less but not terribly lower offer should suffice. Two years and $5M-$6M, $1M upfront could do it. Three years $7M-9M, $1.5M up front would suffice as well, staggered in a way that makes it able to release him for cap savings prior to the third year. I think the decision of two or three years depends on how strong they feel about Arthur Brown being the leader of the defense in 2016.
The structure of multiple year deals will be interesting as well since it’s expected that the salary cap will make a huge leap in 2015 with big TV dollars coming in, much like Major League Baseball is experiencing this year. Could we see Smith get $10M over two years with $2M-3M this year and a jump up to $7M-$8M in 2015, equaling the anticipated salary cap space?
A $3M per year average is a nice raise from the $1.125M Smith received. But then you look and see that a 36-year old London Fletcher is getting an average of $5.38M per year. We all know how underrated Fletcher has been throughout his career. But Smith is underrated as well. If Smith’s afore mentioned agent, who couldn’t get a solid player more money than someone dumb enough to pass off animal urine as his own; If all of sudden he pursues London Fletcher money, citing the age difference, the Ravens maybe priced out of the running without some serious cuts being made elsewhere.