Ravens Re-Sign Daryl Smith
Baltimore re-signed Daryl Smith to a four-year, $16.1 million deal. The inside linebacker led the Ravens last season in tackles but was even more valuable as a veteran leader post-Ray Lewis. The signing hurts the IDP fantasy football value of second-year linebacker Arthur Brown.
In 2013 Smith was brought over from Jacksonville on an affordable one-year contract after Brown was selected in the second round of the draft. Many felt Brown would instantly be an every-down starter and leader of the unit. But it was Smith who won the role, starting all 16 games, playing 1,097 snaps and making the calls for the Ravens’ defense.
I’ve always regarded Smith as an undervalued player in the league. In 2011 he graded out as the second best outside linebacker behind only Denver’s Von Miller. The 2012 season was lost due to injury and he was a forgotten man, mostly since he had been successful in small-market Jacksonville. Now he’s being paid to hold down the fort in Baltimore and provide veteran leadership to Brown and the other young linebackers on the roster.
Smith has always excelled defending the pass. Last season he graded +8.8 in coverage but a disappointing -13.1 against the run. He also faded big time down the stretch with negative performances in three of his last five games. Smith is 32 years old, and he could have worn down from the high snap count last year.
In 2014 the Ravens expect Brown to win a starting job at inside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. With the signing of Smith it appears that they will be the two to get the job but will have to hold off Josh Bynes. Brown still may have fantasy value but it doesn’t help that Smith is sticking around.
I expect Smith to still make the defensive calls and captain the unit. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens’ staff get more creative with their subpackages. They may look to use Brown in different ways to take advantage of his strengths, hide Smith’s weakness against the run and keep him fresh for the stretch run late in the year. It all adds up to a fantasy football mess at this point and should remain an interesting situation to monitor throughout the offseason.
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Nate Hodges is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and radio host for Tennessee Sports Radio (Saturdays at noon eastern). Listen at TNsportsradio.com. His work can also be found at TopTierFootball.com. You can follow him on Twitter – @NateNFL