It isn’t often that we get to discuss the prospect of the Baltimore Ravens signing a wide receiver they drafted to a long-term deal, but as the 2014 regular season approaches, that discussion may intensify with former second round pick Torrey Smith.
The fourth-year player is entering the final season of his 2011 rookie contract, and with no other picks from that draft in place to ink a new deal with the Ravens at the moment, all signs point to Smith being Baltimore’s next order of business in the contract department.
With the rare opportunity to turn a draft pick at wide receiver into an offensive cornerstone, is the time now for the Ravens to pay Smith?
Steve Smith and Jacoby Jones will be around for two or three years, but the Ravens have the chance to lock Torrey up and keep him in Baltimore for another five years.
There’s no debating whether or not there’s mutual interest to keep Smith in Baltimore beyond his rookie contract; only how much money it will take to keep him remains the question.
Smith – nearing his full potential as a speedster receiver and becoming more than just a deep threat – falls in the good, not great category of wide receivers. A very good #2 receiver, low-tier #1 at best, but maybe not quite the ideal go-to #1 receiver several NFL teams have the luxury of having at their disposal.
That’s far from a knock on Smith, who entered the NFL as an undeveloped rookie. Today he has developed into someone who will likely finish his career having outplayed the draft slot (58th overall) he was selected in.
Through three seasons, Smith has passed the eye test as a receiver who has steadily improved each campaign, with his statistical production backing that up.
His steady growth has been a pleasant surprise. As a rookie, it was clear Smith was a “raw” player in every sense of the word, and even if he hasn’t reached his full potential, he has still displayed the upward trend that is necessary in order to have confidence in handing him a new, more lucrative contract.
Another reason why Smith is an integral piece of Baltimore’s offense that needs to stay around?
In two seasons and six games of playoff experience, Smith’s catches have been sparse, but when quarterback Joe Flacco calls his number, Smith lives up to his deep threat label.
If Smith can supply 20+ yards per catch every postseason, he’ll always have a place in Baltimore’s offense, and having just turned 25 in January, it appears the Flacco-Smith duo will be an abiding commodity, one that will be the centerpiece of Baltimore’s pass attack for much of Flacco’s remaining tenure with the team.
So, what type of contract he is worthy of?
Comparing Smith to other receivers who have already received their big deals is tough, as so far this offseason the Ravens have managed to sign key free agents for less than the market value (see: Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith). Therefore, it won’t be a surprise to see the Ravens ultimately get Smith for less than what he could likely receive if he were to test the free agent market next year.
Comparing Smith to receivers similar to him in skill set, though, helps create a basis for the ceiling and floor of his contract.
Let’s start with the ceiling.
During this year’s free agency, the New York Jets signed wide receiver Eric Decker to a five-year deal worth up to $36.25 million with $15 million fully guaranteed. Smith could probably find himself that type of deal if he were to test free agent waters, but odds are the Ravens will be able to avoid dishing out more money than what Decker received.
The middle ground may come from Miami, where Brian Hartline’s five-year deal inked in 2013 brought him $12.5 million guaranteed, with a total value of $30.775 million.
Smith’s floor value may be found in the AFC North, as Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown receiver landed a five-year deal in 2012 worth $41.7 million in total value, but only $8.5 million in fully guaranteed money.
If the Ravens can land Smith in the price range of the three receivers above, – compared to the market – they would be getting reasonable value for Smith. Hartline and Decker are similar to Smith in the sense that their floor is a very good #2 option/low-end #1 option for an offense, while Brown is a notch above Smith in terms of skill set.
The Ravens know what they have with Smith, and that makes it easier to invest in him for the long haul.
Baltimore has just over $4 million in cap space for the 2014 season, giving the Ravens ample room to accommodate, especially as with the case with many extensions, the burden of the large contract on the way usually doesn’t bring a major hit to the team’s salary cap until the following year.
The time is now for Baltimore to lock up Torrey Smith.
Should the Ravens get a deal done this year? How much is he worth?