Eisenberg: Torrey Smith Is Right Player. Is He Right Price?


The Ravens always rely on their "right player, right price" mantra when making personnel decisions, but in applying it to Torrey Smith's situation, an important distinction needs to be made,

Any uncertainty involves the price, not the player.

While the Ravens and Smith try to settle on a new contract before he hits free agency on March 10, a host of questions are circulating. They're all related to dollars. Can Smith get more on the open market from another team? Would that offer be for more than the Ravens want to pay? Does Smith want to stay here badly enough to take a slighter lesser offer?

We should have answers sometime in the next few weeks.

But while the Ravens aren't going to pay beyond what they see as an appropriate price for Smith's services, they've made it abundantly clear that they do want him back. There are no questions circulating about whether they want this to work out. They do.

Right price, we'll see, but right player … yes.

It's worth mentioning because a subtle undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Smith is quietly burbling in certain segments of Ravenstown, largely due to the fact that he hasn't been a Pro Bowl-caliber, carry-the-passing-game kind of receiver. A big-play guy? Yes. The team's top deep threat? No question. But his four-year totals of 213 catches for 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns weren't enough for some, it seems.

Whatever. Anyone can say what they want. But let's be clear on this: the Ravens' front office has seen enough from Smith to want to re-sign him and lock him into their offensive blueprint for years, provided they can make the dollars work.

It's the right move, in my opinion – honestly, a no-brainer. The Ravens need more young playmakers, not fewer young playmakers.

If they were to lose Smith, who becomes their deep threat? Who makes game-breaking plays like Smith's reception late in the regular-season finale against Cleveland, when a playoff berth suddenly was in jeopardy? No one else on the roster consistently peels the top off a defense like Smith. Jacoby Jones caught just nine passes in 2014.

Sure, there's always the possibility of the Ravens finding another deep threat in free agency or the draft. I'm all for that. In fact, I think it's important that they give quarterback Joe Flacco more viable targets, especially young ones that can be penciled into the offense for several years.

While the Ravens were the only AFC North team to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs this year, they don't have as many young playmakers as the Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals. They would benefit from making up some of that ground. I know my ears perked up when I heard assistant GM Eric DeCosta say at the combine earlier this week that it might be possible this year to add an "elite" wide receiver at the bottom of the first round, where the Ravens are drafting.

(My two cents, what the Ravens really need out of this draft, in terms of immediate impact, is a young playmaker, regardless if it's a running back, tight end or wide receiver. Yes, the secondary was a major issue in 2014 and certainly needs improvement, but as I wrote earlier, I think a majority of that solution is already on the roster, save for maybe one safety. Meanwhile, the Ravens' top rusher, wide receiver and tight end in 2014 were all mid-career or late-career veterans picked up from other teams.)

But regardless if you add another deep threat, that doesn't mean you're better off subtracting a deep threat, especially one as young as Smith (26) and obviously a Flacco favorite. They've hooked up on a ton of big plays since 2011 – not just receptions, but pass interference penalties. Twice in the past three years, including in 2014, Smith led the NFL in drawing PI flags. That's what speed does for you.

With Dennis Pitta's future uncertain and the Ravens working on their fourth offensive coordinator since December 2012, it's hardly a bad idea to bolster overall continuity and Flacco's level of security with a receiver so trusted, as opposed to giving Flacco yet another thing to which he needs to adjust.

Pro football is an offensive-minded game these days. The more big-play, high-scoring potential you have, the better your chances. Torrey Smith has provided a major slice of that potential in Baltimore for four years, and the Ravens are right to want more. The only question is whether his price is right.

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