Daryl Smith showed the world during the 2013 season that his NFL career wasn’t finished.
He led the Ravens in tackles (123), was second in interceptions (3), second in forced fumbles (2), third in sacks (5) and he had the team’s only defensive touchdown, a pick 6 against the Houston Texans.
Smith also helped make the transition from the Ray Lewis era as seamless as possible while wearing the green dot as the defensive signal caller.
Essentially Smith did everything the Ravens hoped and then some.
But now he’s a free agent and many wonder if he’ll return to Baltimore.
As always for the Ravens and Ozzie Newsome it boils down to “right player, right price.” Unfortunately for those who want Smith to return another team is likely to offer more for Smith than the Ravens could be willing to pony up.
And here’s why…
Smith at this point in his career is a far better player against the pass than he is in run support. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith was the 16th ranked inside linebacker in 2013. That’s not too bad and given the $1M+ contract he provided great value.
In pass coverage Smith was the 5th best ILB but against the run Smith dropped to 50th.
Against the AFC North division rivals Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland Smith was unimpressive in run support receiving negative marks in each of the 6 contests, again per Pro Football Focus.
Making things even more complicated is the player slated to play next to Smith if he returns to Baltimore – promising second year player Arthur Brown.
Brown has been compared to the 49ers Navarro Bowman and possesses off-the-chart physical skills. Insiders are very excited about his potential in the 2014 season but that said, most see him as more of a cover linebacker than a prototypical run stuffer – at least at this stage of his development.
Pairing Smith next to Brown is akin to asking Elvis Dumervil to hold down the edge in run support.
In other words the combination of Smith and Brown might not work since they are an old and new version of the same player.
So it comes back to the asking price.
It’s possible that Smith could be a Raven again but his stats and productivity as a cover ILB might equate to more dollars with a team that already has a run-stuffing ILB and wants to improve their intermediate pass coverage. If so they should be willing to pay Smith more than the Ravens.
Anything is possible and the longer Smith remains a free agent, the closer he’ll get to being a Raven again because his asking price will drop.
Remember, “right player, right price.”