Steve Smith signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday. The wide receiver's 13-year career with the Carolina Panthers officially came to a close on Thursday, when the team decided to release the longtime face of the franchise.
Originally selected by the Panthers in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Smith piled up seven 1,000-yard seasons and five Pro Bowl bids. But the veteran, who turns 35 in May, significantly slowed down last season, failing to log a single 100-yard game. So ...
How much does Smith have left in the tank? Can he make a significant impact on the Ravens?
Foes beware! This guy's hell-bent on proving doubters wrongSteve Smith has made a stellar career out of channeling perceived disrespect into furious over-achievement, and now he has a REAL chip on his shoulder. It's one thing to be told you're too small to play; it's another to be told (by Panthers GM Dave Gettleman) that you are persona non grata in the stadium where you've shined more than any other player.
So yeah, Smith is going to ball out in Baltimore, and he'll do everything in his power to make Gettleman feel as defeated as Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib and all those who have previously crossed him. Three words for Gettleman: Ice up, dad.
Smith can still make an impact, but he must pace himselfAt the beginning of last season, I saw the same explosiveness Smith had in the past. But by the end, he seemed to have lost some of his burst.
In the past, Smith would take all the reps in practice and play every snap in games. At this point in his career, I think he has to realize that it's in his best interest to practice and play less. This will make him a better 16-game player. Obviously, it's never been his M.O., as such an ultra-competitive guy. But if he stays fresh, he can still be a factor on game day.
Anquan Boldin 2.0: Ravens get another savvy vet built for the playoffsThe Ravens were thought to be going for Julian Edelman. Instead, they nabbed a seasoned vet who might be less productive but is capable of bigger plays. Of course, Smith doesn't have the burst anymore. What he does have is the ability to make plays on the ball and compete. That's a guy you want in the postseason, and that is the essential quality that Anquan Boldin brought to Baltimore -- especially during the Ravens' magical run to a Super Bowl XLVII title.
Let Torrey Smith be the deep threat, Dennis Pitta the big possession target, and Smith the receiver who gets all the underneath stuff. Smith might be on the older side, but he's still savvy enough to get behind a safety.
Baltimore's aerial attack is backSteve Smith has a lot left in the tank. And it goes noted that one of the smartest teams in the NFL pounced on him and didn't let him leave Baltimore without signing a contract. Smith is a No. 2 receiver at this stage, and he doesn't have to be a No. 1 with Torrey Smith across the field. Factor in a healthy Dennis Pitta, and the Ravens' passing attack will be humming again.
What a fantastic coup by Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta. And no surprise with this elite organization.
A perfect third option in the Ravens' passing gameSteve Smith is no longer a No. 1 receiver, but he is a perfect fit for the Ravens' offense. He's a crafty wideout with the toughness to do the dirty work, nicely complementing Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta. Although he has lost a step and isn't the deep threat that he was in his prime, Smith still has enough quickness and savvy to win against most No. 2 corners in the league.
With Gary Kubiak adept at creating big-play opportunities through clever schematic construction, I expect Smith to average 14-plus yards per catch and score 6-8 touchdowns as the third option in the Ravens' passing game.