Jimmy Smith Wants To Prove He's Top-Five Cornerback

Money talks.

And the dollars say Jimmy Smith is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

The fifth-year defender cashed in this offseason with a four-year extension reportedly worth $41 million – a clear sign of respect that pays him as one of the NFL's elite. His average annual salary of $10.275 million puts him just outside the top five at his position.

Now Smith wants to make sure people recognize he's deserving of the distinction.

"It's very important for me for the league to know who I am as a cornerback," Smith said. "To be the best, you get paid the best. I feel like I got a great contract, so I'm not mad about it, but I do feel like I'm a top-five corner in the league."

The buzz around Smith has grown in recent years. After a slow start to his career, the former first-round pick grew into his own as a starter during the 2013 season. He carried that over into 2014, where he was a lock-down defender through the first half of the season.

Pro Football Focus has Smith graded as the NFL's fifth-best cornerback in coverage through the first eight games last year, but then he suffered a season-ending foot injury.

Now he's healthy again, and Smith wants to pick up where he left off last season.

"What I do is I just go out and play, and, hopefully, my best is one of the best in the league," he said. "I'd be lying to you if I sat here and acted like it didn't matter. To me, being one of the top-rated corners is more important to me than having the biggest contract."

Smith has established himself as the Ravens' best corner and one of the  top defenders. They invested in him before he was fully recovered from the foot injury because the team is confident his best years are ahead of him.

"The next step for him is to take it to the next level and play into that contract, and that's what he very much wants to do," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He is a student of the game. He has matured a lot that  way as a football player."

He's also built for Baltimore's defense.

At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, Smith has the size to match up against the game's biggest receivers. He can jam them at the line up scrimmage, allowing him to thrive as a man-to-man cover corner.

"If you draw up a corner and build one by yourself, you'd make him look just like Jimmy Smith," Harbaugh said. "He's just what you're looking for."

When Smith was at his best last season, he could virtually take a receiver out of the game. He didn't allow a single touchdown in his eight games last year and gave up just 20 receiving yards per game. As teams became more aware of him, quarterbacks mostly looked the opposite direction.

That's a trend Smith won't bank on continuing.

"After I had my rookie season and I got a rude awakening by the NFL quarterbacks, I don't think I'll ever think that [any] quarterback is not going to throw at me," Smith said.

He also doesn't want quarterbacks to stop looking his way.

"I invite the throws," Smith said. "I invite all competition."

The Ravens continued the 2015 training camp with practice at the Under Armour Performance Center.

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