Exactly one week after breaking down in tears when teammate Robert Quinn got traded by the Bears, inside linebacker Roquan Smith was all smiles after his first practice since leaving the Bears himself.
"I didn't plan to [get traded], but you know, life happens at times and got traded," Smith said, flashing a wide grin. "So initially I was shocked. But I'm excited to be here. Good group of guys that's contending for a title, and that's what I'm in the game to play for -- playing for a title."
The NFL's leading tackler, Smith goes from the rebuilding Bears (3-5) to the first-place Ravens (5-3). He is looking to provide a boost to a Baltimore defense that ranks No. 24 in the NFL, has allowed a league-worst 83 fourth-quarter points this season and has failed to hold three double-digit leads.
And, despite reaching the playoffs five times this decade, the Ravens have yet to advance past the divisional round since they won the Super Bowl in 2012.
"I know they trying to get over the hump and win the big game," Smith said. "So I feel like I can be one of the guys that can help with that. So I'm excited to be able to give everything I got to make that happen."
Baltimore traded a second- and fifth-round pick in 2023, along with linebacker A.J. Klein to Chicago, for Smith, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Bears paid $4.833 million of Smith's $5.408 million salary for the rest of the season, a source added, which allowed the Ravens to get Smith under their salary cap.
Smith, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, declined to say whether he has started negotiations on a contract extension with Baltimore.
"I'm not really focused on that right now," he 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."
The Ravens will have five months to reach a new deal with Smith before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Baltimore would be unable to use the franchise tag on Smith unless the team can sign quarterback Lamar Jackson to an extension before March. The Ravens are expected to put the tag on Jackson to keep him from free agency.
Like Jackson, Smith does not have an agent and represents himself. Ravens officials have said previously that the lack of an agent has created "unusual" contract negotiations with Jackson. Now, the Ravens have a similar situation with Smith.
"Times are changing," Smith said on why he doesn't have an agent. "Honestly, I think players want to be at the table and want, like, a 100% transparency. I think that's the major thing. The fee you're paying agents, you know, some do great jobs. I can be giving that to charity or family. But I also have a team of advisers as well, so it's not just me, by myself."