Ravens agree to three-year, $11 million deal with Steve Smith

Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver joins Ravens, gets $3.5 million signing bonus

  • Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball after a catch in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 12, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball after… (Grant Halverson / Getty…)
March 15, 2014|By Jeff Zrebiec and Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

On his way to Baltimore on Thursday night, Steve Smith got a phone call from New England head coach Bill Belichick who told the free agent wide receiver that he wanted him to play for the Patriots and catch passes from Tom Brady.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks also called and Smith said the San Diego Chargers — coached by Mike McCoy, his former passing game coordinator in Carolina — made him a contract offer. But as Smith pondered a move for the first time in his 13-year NFL career, he concluded that there was no need to make any more visits after Baltimore.

"I really felt like after sitting here that this is the place that I felt would best fit me, and they convinced me that I would fit in here very well," Smith said just moments after signing his name to a Ravens' three-year, $11 million contract. "... It's not really of value how many other teams were in the mix. The part and the thing that's the most important is I found a home that seems to want me, and I wanted them."

Smith spent Thursday night and most of Friday meeting with team officials, including general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. The Ravens were able to close the deal with the five-time Pro Bowl selection before Smith could leave the team facility and get on a plane to Massachusetts, where he was scheduled to meet with Belichick and other Patriots' officials on Monday.

Smith's new contract includes a $3.5 million signing bonus, a 2014 base salary of $1 million, a 2015 base salary of $3 million and a 2016 base salary of $3 million, according to sources. The deal also includes a $1 million, 60-percent playtime one-time incentive clause.

"Steve is a Ravens-style football player," Harbaugh said. "He always has been in our eyes. It's just that he's been playing for another team. … The last two days have given all of us with the Ravens an opportunity to get to know him on another level, and now, we're even more impressed. We're looking forward to working together and competing together."

Capping a productive day, the Ravens also re-signed middle linebacker Daryl Smith, filling another of their roster holes. But the addition of Steve Smith was clearly the headliner move with how much attention has been on the franchise's search for a receiver.

In 13 NFL seasons, Smith has caught 836 passes for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns. He will turn 35 in May and he's coming off a season in which his catch total (64), yardage (745) and yards per catch (11.6) numbers sagged. But the Ravens, who have been searching for another target for quarterback Joe Flacco, felt that Smith was a great fit. He gives the Ravens' offense a tough, veteran presence that it lacked last season after trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers.

"I can tell you this: I'm not Anquan Boldin," Smith said. "I respect the heck out of 'Q,' and what 'Q' brings to the table is what 'Q' brings to the table. I'm Steve Smith, and what I bring to the table as a Baltimore Raven, I have to earn that, and my time on the field will display what I bring to the table. My comparison to Anquan … we play similar games; we want to win and we go all-out. But we're also individuals, and so I'm not here to replace anyone. I'm here to be myself."

Smith, who has averaged 75 catches and six touchdowns per season since the 2005 campaign, became available after an ugly divorce from the Panthers, who released him Thursday. His contentious relationship with Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman reportedly played a part in the decision, as did his age, price tag — he had a $7 million salary cap hit for 2014 — and outspoken and fiery nature on and off the field.

However, the Ravens are embracing all that Smith brings, believing that their offense, which swooned to 29th in the NFL last season, could use an injection of toughness and swagger. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who signed off on the deal after his getting his traditional Friday haircut, called Smith "one of the top competitors in the NFL."

"Everything seemed to gel, and Coach Harbaugh was excellent," said Smith, who hadn't yet spoken to Flacco or running back Ray Rice but said that he was looking forward to doing so. "We talked about a lot of things, and the one thing that they said that was consistent was, 'We want you to be yourself.' That was good, that was very encouraging. I enjoyed that."

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