This promo poster is already making the rounds in Baltimore as a rally banner for the 2014 Ravens' offensive rejuvenation:
Yes, Steve Smith of Carolina Panthers fame is now a wide receiver for the Ravens.
I was convinced Steve Smith would end up with the New England Patriots. Surprise, surprise!
The Ravens also made a re-signing deal with 32-year-old linebacker Daryl Smith that may in fact turn out to be more crucial to the team's success in 2014 than even Steve Smith's potential contribution.
Also, charitably lost in the buzz about Smith and Smith was the departure of right tackle Michael Oher, who signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans.
First the data beneath the buzz on Steve Smith.
Heckuva get for the Ravens at 3 years for $10.5 million, with a $3.5 million signing bonus which won't count against the salary cap.
This guy's no Anquan Boldin, but he's just as capable of taking over a game in stretches.
"The 34-year-old veteran is the tough, slot option the Ravens have been looking for." — Ryan Mink, Baltimore Ravens NFL.com blogger
A day after the Carolina Panthers released veteran wideout Steve Smith on Thursday afternoon, the Ravens agreed with him on a three-year contract. The deal is worth $10.5 million with a $3.5 million signing bonus, according to the NFLN TV network.
Smith had visited Baltimore first, although he said he wanted to have multiple teams wine and dine him. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks were also reportedly interested. The sales pitch given by General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh was good enough for Smith to even cancel his flight to New England, reports NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
The Ravens never let Smith out of their building. “It was exciting. Phenomenal facility,” Smith told BaltimoreRavens.com.
“I had a chance to meet with the coaching staff and the one thing they emphasized was to be myself. It’s easy to be yourself and I look forward to being myself.”
The Ravens wanted a wide receiver with production, someone who would make tough catches when they need them most. Productive is exactly what Smith is.
Smith turns 35 in May and is on the tail end of his career, but his body of work speaks for itself. In seven of 13 career seasons, Smith has notched 1,000 receiving yards or more. He’s fourth among active NFL pass catchers in career yardage (12,197), trailing only Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne and Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Banged up by injuries last year, Smith’s stats dipped to 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns. That still would have given him more catches and yards than any Ravens wide receiver except
He received an overall grade of 11.4 from Pro Football Focus (PFF), which would have put him as the third-best wide receiver in this year’s free agent class.
In 2012, Steve Smith caught 73 passes for 1,174 yards and four scores. In 2011, he logged 79 catches for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns, earning his fifth Pro Bowl selection.
The Ravens have needed a reliable, gritty pass catcher to work the middle of the field since trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers last offseason. Smith doesn’t have the build of Boldin (Boldin is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds while Smith is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds), but they are similarly extremely competitive and reliable.
Smith has the savvy, quickness and power to break press coverage, something younger Ravens receivers were not as adept at last season. He plays well in the slot, an area where Baltimore couldn’t find an answer after the injury to tight end
Smith also still flashes big-play potential. He averaged 16.1 yards per catch in 2012 and 17.6 in 2011.
He’s durable, and willing to play through bumps and bruises. Besides the 2003 season, in which he was out 15 games, the former third-round pick out of Utah (2001) has missed only 11 games in his other 12 seasons.
Smith will be a mentor to the Ravens’ younger receivers, similar to the way Boldin was. He is expected to be a sparkplug in the offense.
“When you look at the Ravens, they’ve had a great amount of success integrating older players and younger players, fusing them together and understanding the right combination,” Smith said. “That part was very intriguing for me, and it also brings a challenge that I’m up for. I love the uniforms. I just love everything that it is to be a Baltimore Raven, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it all.”
Steve Smith's signing sort of stole the thunder from an equally important competitive event when Daryl Smith re-upped with the Ravens, which promises stability at the linebacker level of the defense.
The veteran inside linebacker agreed to a four-year contract with the Ravens on Friday. The deal is worth $16.1 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“I’m really just fired up,” Smith said. “I knew I wanted to be back and I’m happy we could come to an agreement so I could get back in there for four years.”
Re-signing Smith allows the Ravens to fill one of their top defensive priorities. He is a leader in the middle of the defense and one of the team’s most productive players.
“There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from
Smith started every game at middle linebacker last year and led the Ravens with 123 tackles. He also had five sacks and three interceptions.
“Just look at his production last season, plus he gave us leadership and maturity,” Newsome said. “He’s tough, he’s consistent, he’s intelligent, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day.”
Smith, 32, joined the Ravens last season after spending the first nine years of his career in Jacksonville. He signed just a one-year deal after an injury-plagued season during his final year in Jacksonville, leading to questions about his long-term prospects in the NFL.
Smith proved last year that he still has plenty of good football left in him and is now reaping the rewards with a new contract. He will anchor the defense from the middle linebacker spot that Ray Lewis played for 17 seasons in Baltimore.
“I knew it was a one-year deal, but I was hoping I could come in and prove I could still play and I could still do this for a while,” Smith said. “You really don’t know at the time. But as the season progressed, I felt better with the team and how I played, and I definitely wanted to be back.”
Smith will likely play alongside last year’s second-round pick
Meanwhile, a bittersweet farewell to Baltimore was being tweeted out by Michael Oher.
The Tennessee Titans are signing former Ravens tackle
Oher, 27, was the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2009 and never missed a start during his five years.
"Wanna thank the Ravens organization and their great fans!" Oher tweeted. "Extremely happy and excited to be a Titan and can't wait to do big things!!!"
Oher is an athletic and versatile player who was a hard worker and very reliable. He bounced between left and right tackle multiple times in Baltimore, helping wherever needed without a complaint.
Last year, Oher’s run blocking took a dip. He was graded as the worst run-blocking tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus (PFF), and received an overall grade of -12.6, the ninth-worst mark in the league.
Baltimore will now need to find a new starting right tackle opposite newly re-signed left tackle
Wagner was a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin last year who was effective in the Ravens’ jumbo packages but struggled in his most extensive action against Denver in Week 1 when Oher left with an injury. But that was Wagner’s first professional game and a tough assignment.
Osemele started at right tackle for much of his rookie season in 2012 before being shifted inside to left guard, which he said he prefers. But Osemele was quite effective at tackle, and could end up being the best option there.
If Osemele shifts, the Ravens would have to find a starting left guard. They do have
Quite a day at One Winning Drive in Owings Mills, Maryland today!