By trading for linebacker Roquan Smith, the Ravens now have a pair of 2018 first-round picks who are in their fifth-year option years — and currently heading for free agency in March 2023.
In Chicago, Smith risked being franchise-tagged absent a new deal by early next year. In Baltimore, the Ravens have a dilemma. With both Smith and quarterback Lamar Jackson heading toward free agency, if both refuse to do a deal, one of them will definitely become a free agent.
That presumably would be Smith, if it came down to one or the other. It’s possible that they didn’t do the trade without already having an understanding as to what Smith would expect. (The Bears, in theory, could have authorized such communications.)
Complicating matters is that both players represent themselves. Thus, nothing is done until it’s done, and any unofficial understandings that aren’t final, binding contracts could more easily be disregarded by the player, if he so chooses. And there would be nothing wrong with that, if the players choose to back away from any informal deal that isn’t signed.
Bottom line? The Ravens need to get one of these two players to put their signature on a new deal by the deadline for applying the franchise tag early next year, or one of them will have a clear path to the open market.