While much of the attention in the wonderful world of “Baltimore Ravens trade controversy” will surround Joe Flacco throughout the 2018 season, another name that flies under the radar may sting just a bit, but remains all the more realistic, in my opinion.
Did you just scoff? I figured as much. I too would scoff at the notion of trading away a fringe-but-not-quite Pro Bowl caliber cornerback who is widely recognized as a top-15 CB in the NFL…
Did you just scoff again because I said ‘top 15’ and not ‘top 10’ or even ‘top 5?’ What about the notion that he’s not even a Pro Bowl caliber CB?
The truth hurts doesn’t it…
So let’s do a little recon here on Jimmy, from a purely objective standpoint, devoid of purple-tinted glasses:
Smith is coming off of a season in which he was both injured and suspended by the NFL. Prior to his end date last season, he was without a doubt playing great ball…but was it great enough to justify a doubling cap hit, from $7.3M in 2017, to $15.3M in 2018 and $16.2M in 2019? Moreover, is a CB who sits outside of the top-10 in the league worthy of $15M+ in each of the next two seasons?
Of course the cap hits are only the tip of the iceberg. After all, if the Ravens wanted to keep Jimmy around at a lower cap hit, they’d just push to extend his contract, throw some more guaranteed money his way, and carry on.
And maybe they’ll do that. But I don’t see it.
Jimmy’s injury history is downright scary- he’s played only two full 16-game seasons in his entire career – once as a starter – and has ended up on the season-ending IR three times in the past four seasons. Also worth noting, his past three injury-riddled seasons have all been different ailments:
2014: Left foot injury (season-ending surgery)
2015: Rare healthy 16-game season
2016: Back injury (two weeks), high ankle sprain (season-ending IR)
2017: Achilles (season ending IR)
In my eyes? Multiple injuries of varying body parts on a fairly consistent basis is the true definition of “injury prone,” and that’s downright scary.
While the injuries give you the chills, let’s jump back into that suspension shall we? Smith’s suspension for PEDs was announced a day after his Achilles injury last December, which is just a brutal 48 hours for anybody. If I’m a betting man? I’d say the PEDs were Smith’s means to compensate for the Achilles injury that he claims had been bothering him since early on in the 2017 season, and it just so happened to catch up to him (both the Achilles & the NFL testing), which isn’t exactly a surprise by NFL standards.
So there you have it. A CB1 in the eyes of Ravens fans (and 15th overall in ’17 per PFF), with an atrocious history of injuries, a PED suspension in the books, and oh by the way Jimmy accounts for the 3rd highest CB cap hit in 2018 ($15.3M) only behind A.J. Bouye and Josh Norman.
Anybody still scoffing at the notion of trading Jimmy away? A few fewer hands raised?
So let’s shake those eight balls and read them tarot cards (I guess you read them? I don’t know how that voodoo works) and dig into predicting the future for Jimmy and the Ravens: the last time Smith came back from a major injury was his 2014 broken left foot. In 2015, he managed a full 16-game season, and played well. I’m hoping he’ll recreate such a year in 2018, and with an improved pass rush and a more complementary secondary around him (Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis & Webby in ’15- JAW. DROPPED.), I can foresee Jimmy having a solid year once again.
So let’s assume his valu bounces back. Splendid!
At this juncture, the biggest factor becomes the remainder of the Ravens CB group, and honestly, trading Jimmy is predicated on their success as much as it is his own.
I don’t think there’s any question that Marlon Humphrey had himself one hell of a rookie year, and I don’t think anybody is going to question what Tavon Young is capable of at the top of his game. Personally though? I’m looking at Maurice Canady, and whether or not he can take the next step. I don’t need Canady to be a CB1 on the outside (I think Marlon will solidify that this season) but I need him to become a reliable CB2. Even if Canady takes more than 2018 to develop, you still have Brandon Carr for three more seasons on the books, who is more than serviceable in that CB2 spot. Then there’s developmental guys like Anthony Averett & Jaylen Hill who may turn into legitimate corners in the league, but will be afforded time to develop with a steady group ahead of them.
Ultimately, if all of these developments come to fruition, Smith can very well become a luxury for the Ravens when healthy, but will remain a major cap liability when injured or suspended, which is far too often for a CB making top-tier money.
As such? I believe the Ravens push for a trade following the 2018 season.
I gotta imagine the scoffing is down to a minimum now, yes?
There’s no doubt Jimmy’s flags will scare some teams off, but hey, if Aqib ‘chain swiping’ Talib could land a big money deal with the Rams? And hot-headed Josh Norman is making bank with the Skins? There’s no denying that a CB-needy team will be willing to trade for Jimmy.
As far as compensation, let’s look at the pair of CB trades the Rams made this offseason. First the Rams gave up a 5th round pick for a hot head in Aqib Talib, who is pushing 33 years old these days. After acquiring one CB with major character issues, the Rams went out and traded for another in Chiefs CB Marcus Peters, who went for a 2018 4th and 2019 2nd, although it’s worth noting that Peters comes much cheaper, with two years remaining on his rookie deal.
Smith has the talent to match Peters and Talib, but accounts for a higher cap hit than Peters, while being three years younger than Talib. As such, I can perceive his value somewhere in the middle: say a 2nd Rd pick at best, and a 4th at worst, pending on his performance this coming season.
Assume Jimmy has a solid season in 2018, but is surpassed by Humphrey as CB1, and there’s clear development among the corps of CBs along the way… if Jimmy nets you a 3rd-Round pick and manages to clear $9.5M in cap space along the way, would you give it your stamp of approval?