Ravens Sign Steve Smith
The Ravens inked Steve Smith to a three-year, $11 million contract with $3.5 million in guaranteed money. Prior to Friday, the Ravens had spent their salary cap re-signing their core free agents like Eugene Monroe, Dennis Pitta and Daryl Smith.
Smith might be going on 35, but he still has plenty to offer his next team. Including the postseason, he put together an impressive +8.3 overall grade in 2013. That was good enough to put him 26th-best at his position out of 75 qualifiers who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps.
Although it might not help him in fantasy, Smith remains an excellent blocker and finished last season with a +2.1 grade in blocking. What will help Smith’s fantasy owners is his reliability — he dropped just five passes all season. Smith is also good after the catch, as he forced 15 missed tackles in 2013 — good for fourth-most among all wide receivers.
Working in Smith’s favor more than anything else is the situation that he inherits in Baltimore, as opposed to where he was in Carolina. After several seasons of inconsistent quarterback play, the Panthers drafted Cam Newton. The only problem for Smith was that they never surrounded him with any other options at wide receiver. Teams were simply able to focus on Smith with bracket coverage, and it kept his numbers down.
With the Ravens, Smith will finally see defensive attention focused on a teammate of his — Torrey Smith. This should allow Smith more opportunities underneath. If Smith forces another 15 missed tackles, a few of those are more likely to result in big plays when the opposing defensive scheme leaves him in a one-on-one situation.
Of course, it’s important to keep expectations in check. Smith hasn’t scored more than eight touchdowns in a single season since 2005. He will also be transitioning to Gary Kubiak’s run-first scheme. Wide receivers who are the second option in Kubiak offenses have struggled to put together meaningful seasons from a fantasy football perspective.
Smith will serve as a security blanket for Joe Flacco and a first down machine. He still has plenty of ability left and I expect him to finish as a WR3 with upside to fall into that WR2 range if he can turn some of those missed tackles into touchdowns.
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