There had been speculation during the early stages of free agency that the Carolina Panthers were going to release their 13-year star wideout Steve Smith. As of yesterday, the Panthers leading receiver has finally hit the open market. This has been criticized by many as a very questionable move.
Smith has been the go to receiver for the young franchise quarterback Cam Newton ever since he entered the league in the 2011 NFL draft. With his departure, Newton’s new targets have a combined zero receptions during the 2013 regular season. This is the first time Smith has had an opportunity to join another franchise and the Baltimore Ravens look to be a potential landing spot.
The Ravens have managed their player situations real well this off-season as they usually do. It should come to be no surprise that Ozzie Newsome is once again building a team successfully through the off-season, but he has a shot at a potential home run in this market.
So far Newsome has taken care of the task at hand, such as restructuring Terrell Suggs’ deal and re-signing both Dennis Pitta and Eugene Monroe to extensions. The philosophy going forward is building around the franchise quarterback that the front office paid heavily last year. They have done a solid job so far, but adding Steve Smith to the mix would put the icing on the cake.
Baltimore has other needs to fill until training camp begins and wide receiver is one of them. While it would be ideal to draft a young receiver for the upcoming season, adding Smith would allow the front office to address other positions of need. It is uncertain whether Daryl Smith will be back with the Ravens, so inside linebacker is still potentially a need. Defensive tackle, center and right tackle remain as the Ravens other primary needs.
Signing Steve Smith would allow another year before the Ravens need to find more youth at the receiver position. Some would think that signing a standout receiver that will be 35 years of age during the regular season is a risky move, but Steve Smith is worth every bit of the risk.
It was a bit of a shocker that the Carolina organization actually let Smith go and he made it known he will be ready for the upcoming regular season.
“I want to make sure that whatever team I go to, they’re going to get the best, in-shape 35-year-old guy they can get, If that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere.”
The motivation is clearly there for the veteran wide out and he has never won a championship. Adding Smith to the mix in Baltimore would make the Ravens a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Torrey Smith is the number one receiver in Baltimore already, so Smith would assume the role as the number two. Torrey Smith is more of a flyer type who stretches the field. Steve Smith is primarily an underneath type who is one of the better receivers in the game when it comes to yards after the catch.
Marlon Brown was a nice surprise for the Ravens last year for a team that entered the season with lots of question marks regarding the receiving corps. Brown played in 14 games and hauled in seven touchdowns. With the addition of Smith, Brown would then become the third wide out, a spot that better suits him. That would make up for a nice set of three receivers also with Jacoby Jones coming in as the fourth option on the outside. With that depth at receiver, there is still Joe Flacco’s reliable security blanket Dennis Pitta.
With this arsenal of weapons, Joe Flacco would be able to take his game to the next level. It also would allow the front office to finish repairing the offensive line so the Ravens can get back to running the ball effectively. It could also help the management turn their attention to filling holes on the defensive side of the ball.
There can be durability issues with any player that is in their mid-thirties, but Smith is a tough receiver. He is known for his attitude on the field and his angry style of play. A physical receiver, but he has only missed three games in the past four seasons for the Carolina Panthers.
Last season, Smith caught 64 passes for a total of 745 receiving yards. That is the type of production you can imagine him putting out in Baltimore as the second receiver. Some might say his game is slipping, but the two seasons previous to the 2013 regular season, Smith put up over 1,000 receiving yards both years.
His regular season production is there, but what is sometimes overlooked of Smith is his post-season excellence. In nine career playoff games, Smith has 51 receptions for 856 yards and 8 touchdowns. His latest playoff game was this past post-season against the 49ers, which he had 74 yards receiving to go along with a touchdown reception.
Ravens fans have seen a wide receiver take his game to another level during the post-season when Anquan Boldin did it in their 2012 Super Bowl run. Smith is the kind of veteran that is going to be hungry for a championship and can potentially put out a similar performance.
The Ravens have a bad taste in their mouth after missing the post-season, so they are eager to get back into contention next season. Their roster has shaped up nicely so far this off-season, but there are still other needs to address. Wide receiver is one of them and Steve Smith would be one of the better off-season additions around the league. With other contenders adding premiere cornerbacks, bringing in Smith would help contend with the AFC heavyweights.
Steve Smith is scheduled to meet in Baltimore today and Ozzie Newsome should make sure he does not leave Baltimore without a contract. If Smith indeed becomes a Baltimore Raven, the rest of the AFC better take notice because there will be another Super Bowl contender out there.