Field Yates of ESPN reported Thursday the Ravens converted $6 million of the defender's $7 million base salary into a signing bonus to create the financial flexibility. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, citing NFL Players Association records, confirmed the news.
Front offices always try to get creative this time of year in order to clear space under the salary cap. Spotrac lists the Ravens as having just under $11 million in room, which is the sixth-lowest total in the NFL, with the new league year having just started Wednesday.
Smith is coming off one of the best statistical seasons of his career. He racked up 54 tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions and a sack while appearing in all 16 games.
Those numbers don't tell the entire story, though. He struggled in coverage at times, which is a key reason Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 80 corner in the league out of 119 qualifiers.
The 27-year-old former first-round pick admitted after the season ended that his recovery from a 2014 foot injury hindered his performance, per Garrett Downing of the Ravens' official site: "My foot was huge for me. I didn't really realize how slow I was, or how much I couldn't cut or burst until I really got into live action."
He stated things improved as the season went on and added: "I just need to get some rest and get back to training like I usually train and come back and dominate next season."
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Meanwhile, his contract situation is now more favorable for the Ravens in 2016. It will continue to serve as a source for potential restructures in the future, though. The deal runs through the 2019 campaign with a minimum future cap hit of $12.6 million, according to Spotrac.
Baltimore is probably more concerned about his on-field performance for now. Getting him back to full strength would provide a major boost and should help the team get more plays from the secondary after finishing last in the league with just six interceptions last season.
The Ravens may use the additional cap space from the reworked contract to get him some help on defense, too.
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