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John Harbaugh: Steve Smith welcome back for 2017

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Watching Steve Smith haul in his 1,000th career catch on Sunday, it's natural to wonder if the ageless wide receiver might consider delaying retirement for a second straight year.

Still playing at a high level at age 37, Smith filled a highlight reel with a beautiful, toe-dragging sideline grab, several mad dashes after the catch and a tight-window touchdown reception versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11.

Along with perennial Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, Smith has been Baltimore's most valuable offensive player this year. The Ravens are 5-2 in seven games he has started and finished -- and winless in the two games he missed with an ankle injury.

Coach John Harbaugh conceded Monday that the thought of luring Smith back to Baltimore for a 17th NFL season has "crossed my mind, of course."

"If he wants to come back, he's welcome. Absolutely," Harbaugh continued, via ESPN.com. "You like every good football player you can get. But I don't want to speak for Steve. He's had an unbelievably awesome career."

Harbaugh isn't alone in delivering that message. Fellow wideout Mike Wallace revealed that he pitched the idea of another season or two after Smith celebrated his career milestone on Sunday.

Although Wallace noted that Smith is a "special player and a special person," he acknowledged that the former Carolina Panthers star will "probably" retire.

"But if anybody can keep playing, it's him," Wallace added.

Smith is now eighth all-time in receiving yards (14,448) and 13th in receptions (1,005). Anyone who has witnessed his game-wrecking ability year-in and year-out for the past two decades understands his ticket is already punched for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Two summers ago, Smith announced that 2015 would be his final season. He went on to exceed expectations, showing Pro Bowl form for seven weeks while joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the most productive "old" wide receivers in NFL history.

Not long after an Achilles tear put a premature end to his farewell tour, Smith signed on for one final year so he could leave the game on his own unique terms.

Since the start of this season, though, Smith has not publicly addressed his NFL future.

Here's hoping Harbaugh can coax the most entertaining playmaker of his generation back to Baltimore for one final swan song in 2017.

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