Setting Realistic Expectations for Steve Smith's Role with Baltimore Ravens

Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIMarch 17, 2014

Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith (89) reacts after catching a long pass against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Because a number of key free agents need to be re-signed and there isn't lot of cap space to work with, the Baltimore Ravens' primary goal in free agency was simply to re-sign their own players. 

The Ravens entered free agency with around $28 million in cap space. They went on to re-sign receiver Jacoby Jones, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Daryl Smith to long-term deals. Those contracts will pay them around $11 million in 2014, according to Spotrac

They'll need to keep around $8 million of their remaining cap to sign NFL draft picks and have some emergency money with which to sign players and replace injured ones during training camp and the regular season.

That left them with enough cash to pursue a couple of free agents, but thus far, they've only signed one player who wasn't with the team in 2013. That's former Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith

After the Panthers cut Smith, the Ravens were the first team he visited. It didn't take long for Baltimore to convince him it was the best fit for him, and it eventually signed him to a three-year deal worth $11 million, according to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports

Smith will immediately upgrade what was a very thin group of Ravens receivers. Outside of Torrey Smith, no other receiver had more than 524 receiving yards. Ravens receivers also only caught 13 touchdowns, and 11 of them were between Torrey and Marlon Brown. 

Looking at Smith's 2013 numbers (745 yards and four TDs), it's easy to see he'll upgrade that position and become another weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco. 

ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton also believes Smith will put up good numbers for the Ravens, but said his biggest impact will be what he provides from a leadership standpoint: 

Probably slightly more than he would have had at Carolina now that the chip on his shoulder has gotten a little bit bigger. I can easily see him with 60 to 70 catches for 700 to 800 yards.

But what Smith brings to the Ravens will go beyond catches. He'll make the running game better because he's a tenacious blocker. He'll draw coverage to free up the other wide receivers and tight end.

And he'll bring an attitude that will demand that everybody on offense plays better.

Expect him to be Flacco's No. 4 option behind Torrey, Brown and Pitta. Smith isn't going to come to the Ravens and become a go-to weapon in the passing game, but he will provide a leadership role and a strong voice to a team that doesn't have many vocal leaders on offense.