'Shocked' by trade, Roquan Smith focused on fitting in with Ravens

Roquan Smith wanted to be traded during the training camp. When that didn't happen, he stopped thinking about it -- until Monday.

Chicago unexpectedly granted the second-team All-Pro linebacker's wish at the start of the week, sending him to Baltimore in exchange for second- and fifth-round picks in the 2023 draft and linebacker A.J. Klein.

Smith, for one, was stunned.

"I didn't plan to [get traded], but you know, life happens at times and, you know, got traded," Smith said. "So initially I was shocked. But I'm excited to be here. Good group of guys, guys that's contending for a title, and that's what I'm in the game to play for -- playing for a title."

After two straight victories, Baltimore leads the tightly packed AFC North at 5-3. Rarely hesitant to add talent during the season, the Ravens sensed an opportunity to upgrade at linebacker, adding Smith to a group that includes Patrick Queen, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul.

The deal amounts to a rental -- for now. Smith is in the final year of his rookie deal and initially reached an impasse with the Bears over his long-term future, which wasn't secure beyond 2022, leading to Smith requesting a trade and sitting out of the early portion of training camp. Eventually, Smith relented, shifting his focus from signing a long-term deal with the Bears -- whose tactics Smith called "distasteful" in August -- to playing out his current deal with the hopes of earning a lucrative offer after 2022.

Now, Smith is in a new place that ideally would like to keep him beyond this season.

Unlike Miami's agreement with newly acquired edge rusher Bradley Chubb, the Ravens haven't engaged Smith in contract talks. That's OK with Smith, who is still adjusting to his new reality in purple and black.

"I'm not really focused on that right now," Smith said. "Everything's happened really, really quickly, so I'm just trying to focus on honing in on this playbook right now and getting to that. But my main focus right now is learning the playbook and getting a great relationship with the guys and then going from there."

Smith's situation is similar to that of his new teammate, Lamar Jackson. Neither player is represented by an agent, instead negotiating with their employers directly. A long-term deal for one is at least somewhat dependent on the other, as the Ravens can only use the franchise tag on one of the two with the hopes they strike an agreement with the other. The clock is ticking on retaining both, and based on the market for each player, it seems more likely at this point the Ravens would get a deal done with Smith before Jackson, even if the latter's position is more important overall.

The team has roughly five months to sort out the future with each player. Until then, the focus remains on 2022.

Baltimore hasn't been especially dominant on defense this season, but it has been opportunistic, ranking fourth in turnovers through eight weeks. The hope is Smith elevates the unit's play in the weeks ahead, especially after the Ravens reach the bye next week.

First up, though, are the New Orleans Saints. Baltimore heads to Louisiana for a prime-time affair on Monday night in front of a national television audience. The stage is set for Smith to make his mark in his first game with his new team -- a reality he didn't foresee just a week ago.

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