Clues This May Be Steve Smith's Final Season
Steve Smith Sr. was clear last week.
He doesn't have any aspirations to be like legendary receiver Jerry Rice* *by continuing to play into his 40s.
That said, Smith just turned 36 years old in May, so he could still have multiple NFL years ahead. He has two seasons left on the three-year deal he signed with the Ravens last season.
But something tells The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec that this could be his final year.
"When the Ravens signed Steve Smith last March, the prevailing belief was that the wide receiver would play two seasons with the team and then head into retirement," Zrebiec wrote. "Smith has never publicly confirmed that's his plan. The 36-year-old did acknowledge last week he won't play into his 40s, and he alluded to other things on his 'to-do list' beyond football."
Smith's actions seem to demonstrate that he wants to soak up and enjoy whatever amount of time he has left. He was a participant in the Ravens' first Organized Team Activity (OTA) open to the media last week. Word out of practice is that he put on a clinic for the youngsters, catching everything in sight.
Nobody would bat an eye if he skipped the voluntary program, seeing as he's heading into his 15th year. He could have joined other establish veterans like Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty,* *who reportedly didn't attend.
Smith met up with some younger players at the Ravens Beach Bash in Ocean City, Md. over the weekend. Again, that's not normal for a player of his stature. And he spoke to the newly signed rookies at their minicamp two weeks ago.
"If his 15th season is indeed his last, Smith seems ready to enjoy every last moment of it," wrote Zrebiec.
"Who knows if Smith has firmly decided his future beyond the upcoming season? But I think you can be sure that the wide receiver will be especially motivated to prove he's still an upper-echelon receiver in the league."
Can't Criticize Flacco's Contract After Newton's Deal
Another quarterback has received a mega contract, so it provides yet another opportunity to dispute Joe Flacco contract critiques. It's another opportunity to show he was paid market value, and earned it.
"The argument about [Flacco] being overpaid officially ended around 5 p.m. Tuesday, when Cam Newton signed his five-year, $103 million contract with the Carolina Panthers," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Generally speaking, when evaluating contracts, there are three main criteria one should look for: 1) guaranteed money, 2) money over the first three years, and 3) annual average.
The overall length and money are certainly important, but the parameters of a deal over five or six years rarely wind up being exactly what was originally set up. For example, it's no secret that both the Ravens and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, will hit the negotiating table again this offseason, just three years after his six-year, $120 million deal was signed.
So, let's look at the reported comparisons of the three main criteria between Flacco and Newton.
Guaranteed money: Flacco = $51 million, Newton = $60 million
Money over first three years: Flacco = $62 million, Newton = $67.6 million
Annual average: Flacco = $20.1 million, Newton = $20.8 million
"Newton got more guaranteed money and more money over the first three years of his deal than Flacco, and he's accomplished significantly less as an NFL quarterback," wrote Hensley. "For anyone who laughed at the Ravens for giving Flacco an NFL record contract two years ago, you will probably need to be helped off the floor after seeing the Newton contract figures."
While both quarterbacks received big money, Hensley says the "difference is that Flacco earned his big-money deal."
They had similar regular-season passing numbers before getting their new deals, but Flacco was coming off a Joe Montana-like Super Bowl run, in which the Ravens signal caller threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four postseason wins. Newton's passing numbers have decreased each year since he became a full-time starter.
In five years, Flacco posted a 54-26 record (.675) and helped lead his team to five playoff appearances. Meanwhile, in four years, Newton posted a losing record as a starter (30-31) with one playoff victory.
"In reality, any criticism over Flacco's deal should have died down by now. At this point, it looks like Flacco's deal is a bargain at the going rate for young quarterbacks," wrote Hensley.
"Since Flacco signed his contract, Newton, Ryan Tannehill, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler have reached deals that average over $18 million per season. Flacco's average of $20.1 million is now a solid value considering he's won more games than any other quarterback since 2008 and he's guided the Ravens to the playoffs in six of seven seasons."* *
Another Injury At Wide Receiver
Ravens wide receiver Aldrick Robinson suffered a knee injury and was carted off the field at a closed practice session Tuesday, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. He says the initial prognosis is a knee sprain, but more tests will be conducted to determine the degree of severity.
If true, Robinson marks the second wide receiver to suffer an injury in as many weeks, as second-year Michael Campanaro suffered a quad tear last Wednesday.
Depending how long Robinson is out, his injury could open the door for other players trying to make the roster. He is in a tight competition with Darren Waller, DeAndre Carter, Jeremy Butler and Campanaro for the last one or two wide receiver spots.
In January, Robinson was reportedly signed to a $660,000 reserve-future deal, and was earlier signed to the Ravens' practice squad late in the season. He was a sixth-round NFL draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 2011 out of Southern Methodist. He has notched 30 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns during his three-year career.
Ray Lewis Nominated For College HOF For Second Time
Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been nominated for the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame class. It's his second nomination in two years, but he ultimately was not selected in 2015.
Lewis is a virtual lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he can officially be nominated in 2018, but his college career wasn't as prolific as his NFL career.
Before the Ravens selected Lewis in the 1996 draft, he was the runner up for the Dick Butkus Award – given to the nation's top linebacker – while playing at the University of Miami. He was also a two-time All-Big East selection.
More than 200 names are on the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame ballot, and CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown says "Lewis is not certain to be chosen out of that group."
It includes three players who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: linebacker Derrick Brooks, running back Eric Dickerson and defensive back Rod Woodson. Other nominees include former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (a wide receiver at Michigan St.), linebacker Simeon Rice and linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Things To Watch At OTAs Today
The second round of OTAs will be open to the media today, and Zrebiec will be looking out for several developments, including these three:
1) Improvement of young offensive linemen
"If last week's OTA was any indication, [Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo will] have plenty of work to do with several of the team's younger linemen. To be fair, there wasn't a single projected starting offensive lineman participating in last week's OTA, so inexperienced blockers or rookies found themselves matched up against Brandon Williams, Jernigan and Courtney Upshaw. Guard Robert Myers, a fifth-round pick last month, and guard-tackle Marcel Jones, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, were particularly — and perhaps predictably — overmatched."
2) Schaub's comfort level
"[U]ltimately, Schaub will have to be ready if Flacco, who hasn't missed a game in his career, cannot play. Schaub short-hopped several throws and lacked zip on some other passes. He's obviously working in a new offense and with new coaches and wide receivers, so it would be unfair to expect him to be razor sharp at this point of the offseason."
3) Several rookies return"With so many newcomers, the progress of the Ravens offense will be the team's biggest storyline later this summer. It was tough to glean much from last week's session, with [Breshad] Perriman, [Maxx] Williams and [Javorius] Allen [at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere], Campanaro sidelined and not a single starting offensive lineman present. Perhaps, this week will show a little more."