Ravens Get First Shot At Steve Smith, Who Vows 'Blood And Guts'
A ticked off and hungry receiver with something to prove has landed in Baltimore.
The Ravens have reportedly managed to beat out at least five other interested teams – the Bucs, Patriots, Chargers, Redskins and Seahawks – in getting the first shot at signing five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith.
He flew in last night to begin the first part of his visit and it is "going well so far," one source told The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. Smith is scheduled to spend Friday with Ravens representatives as well.
Tuesday marked the first time Smith has ever been "fired," as he called it, on SiriusXM's Bleacher Report Radio. While he still has love for his former Carolina Panthers team of 13 years, he didn't like how it ended with General Manager Dave Gettleman.
So one of the criteria for Smith's new team is the opportunity to face the Panthers on the field in 2014, and he has a rather graphic prediction of what will happen when they collide.
"I want to make sure that whatever team I go to, they're going to get the best, in shape 35-year-old guy they can get," Smith told WFNZ in Charlotte.
"If that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium (in Carolina), put your goggles on cause there's going to be blood and guts everywhere."
It's as if the football gods smiled on the Ravens because they happen to face the NFC South this upcoming season, hosting the Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium. For the record, here are the eight teams who will play at Bank of America Stadium: Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Bears, Lions, Browns, Steelers and Seahawks.
With division foe Tampa Bay reportedly interested in luring Smith to its franchise, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said: "Knowing Smith might want to be a real thorn in Carolina's side, it wouldn't surprise [me] if he went to NFC South rival Tampa Bay simply for the opportunity to face his former team twice this season."
But Smith is in no hurry to make a decision.
He joked that he would "enjoy a few free dinners" and allow teams to wine and dine him. He is going to enjoy a "cup of coffee and relax" as he figures out what his next step will be.
But we know the Ravens are high on his list.
That's not only because they landed the first visit and shot at signing him, but because before his release, he told the Panthers that the Ravens were one of five teams he'd be willing to be traded to, per The Charlotte Observer.
Despite his down season last year, catching 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns, he produced more than any Ravens receiver not named Torrey Smith. And the veteran did it despite battling injuries.
"The Ravens consider Smith a great fit for what they are looking for in terms of a chain-moving wide receiver who can make tough catches in traffic and be a threat on both third down and in the red zone," wrote Wilson. "The Ravens feel that Smith, who has averaged 75 catches over the past nine seasons, can be the tough and veteran presence that they lacked after trading Anquan Boldin last offseason to the San Francisco 49ers."
Baltimore has been labeled as the "favorite" to sign Smith, given their proximity to Charlotte (Smith's wife is expecting their fourth child) and their winning environment.
We'll know later today if their sales pitch was good enough to prevent him from checking out what other teams have to offer.
Updates On WR MarketLet's take a look at the wide receiver market in case the Ravens don't ink Smith.
The market cooled off yesterday, perhaps because Smith was the newest addition and he could be the first domino to fall in the second wave of receiver signings.
Below are some and the latest reports:
Julian Edelman turned down an offer from the New England Patriots. There was reported "mutual interest" between him and the Ravens, but Baltimore has aggressively pursued Smith. The Browns were making a push for Edelman, but his first visit is scheduled with the San Francisco 49ers, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
Hakeem Nickscould be the top target to replace Smith in Carolina, but the Panthers could have competition. In addition to Edelman, the 49ers are also interested in Nicks, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. But the team to land the first visit with Nicks is the Indianapolis Colts, reports Rapoport. If Nicks signs with Indy, the Panthers may switch their sights back to Brandon LaFell.
Emmanuel Sanders is reportedly highly regarded by the Ravens, but the team has yet to get involved with him as they concentrate on Smith, per Wilson. Sanders has visited with Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and will visit Kansas City Friday, says Rapoport.
Sidney Rice hadn't generated any buzz until late last night. After releasing Rice as a salary cap casualty prior to free agency, the Seahawks are now interested in re-signing him, per Rapoport.
Agent: Alex Mack Will Visit Teams
Despite his transition tag, teams still seem to be interested in Browns two-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack.
There's enough interest that his agent anticipates making a few visits.
"Alex is willing to be patient and play the process out,'' agent Tim Younger told cleveland.com. "He's not in any hurry to sign the transition. He's going to take his time.
"We do anticipate Alex making visits – but he's not in any hurry to do so either."
Four teams have expressed interest in Mack, including the Ravens, per Rapoport. The Colts are at least one of the other teams in the mix, and Mack would love to reunite with Browns Former Head Coach Rob Chudzinski.
"Anytime a player has a chance to talk with a team with a proven record like the Colts, (with) a quarterback and other weapons of the caliber Indy has, it certainly catches your attention," Mack told The IndyStar. "I'm willing to be patient with the process.''
Ihedigbo Left Lions Without Contract
Former Ravens safety James Ihedigbo visited the Detroit Lions yesterday, but left without a contact, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Still, Ihedigbo hopes to reunite with his former defensive backs coach — new Lions Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin. Ihedigbo is trying to decide on agent representation, and his wife is due to have their first child any day.
Does he expect to be a Lion eventually?
"God willing," Ihedigbo told The Free Press. "If (Lions contract negotiator Jon Dykema) helps me out, we'll make it happen."
- Left tackle Eugene Monroe never seriously considered leaving Baltimore. [ProFootballTalk.com]
- Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork asked to be released after a 10-year stint with the team. New England approached him for a contract restructure and Wilfork prefers to be released. [NFL.com]
- Kiper still has the Ravens taking a receiver in his latest mock draft, although the name will be a surprise to many Ravens fans: Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. Cooks is a 5-foot-9 receiver who generated buzz at the combine with the second-fastest 40. "The Ravens need to add another reliable target in the passing game beyond Torrey Smith, and while the diminutive Cooks doesn't fit the prototype of a 'matchup problem' at wide receiver, he will be because he's so hard to cover," wrote Kiper. "He's a more productive, quicker, stronger and slightly bigger Tavon Austin, and could have an early impact given all his experience. I think Baltimore could still make an addition in the passing game before the end of free agency, but this will remain a need." [ESPN]
- There is so much back and forth on a potential Rolando McClain comeback. In his latest interview, he was non-committal. "Football is football," McClain told reporters at Alabama's pro day. "Right now, I don't have any plans." [ESPN]
- Remember this guy? … @LeRon_McClain: If I can get back to that place.... Where it all started... God willing #sweater [Twitter]
- @Colts: All smiles from @Artj97 as he is now officially a member of the #Colts. #COLTSTRONG [Twitter]