Torrey Smith appeared carefree and relaxed as he shrugged his shoulders each time his contract status was broached last week.
The former Maryland wide receiver's expressions and body language revealed no signs of stress. He's a man assured of his future.
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If that doesn't happen, history has shown there is a market for a wide receiver like Smith with a track record of making plays. On the first official day of training camp, Smith played coy and declined to offer hints when asked whether he thinks a deal will be reached, but there are clues about the Ravens' intentions to hold on to him.
"No, I don't think about the contract at all," said Smith, who's entering the final year of his four-year, $3.39 million rookie contract. "That stuff kind of takes care of itself. I'm not going out there on the field while I'm running a route like, 'Man, Ozzie saw that!' I'm here to win. I'm a Raven, always going to be a Raven. That's all I worry about."
No contract is imminent for Smith, and discussions aren't heating up at this time, according to sources.
That doesn't mean talks won't advance in the future, as the Ravens have said since the NFL owners meetings in March that retaining Smith is a priority.
Figuring out an appropriate price for a popular young player who's never missed a game and has piled up 164 career receptions for 2,824 yards and 19 touchdowns in three NFL seasons comes with its challenges.
Smith has yet to be named to a Pro Bowl, and that places him into a tier of good but not elite wide receivers.
"Torrey Smith may not be ideal as far as being that proven Pro Bowl guy, but he is Baltimore's No. 1 receiving option," said Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who writes about the business of football for National Football Post. "Torrey is a deep threat who can take the top off defenses. That adds value for Torrey."
Do the Ravens use the blueprint of New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's five-year, $36.25 million contract? That deal, signed in March, included $15 million guaranteed with a $7.5 million signing bonus.
Where the Ravens and Smith might find middle ground are the guideposts from other recent deals averaging between $6 million to $8 million annually. Those include contracts for Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (four years, $32 million) and Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (five years, $31 million).
This is a pivotal year for Smith. The 2011 second-round draft pick must learn new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's playbook and adjust to working in tandem with newly acquired wide receiver Steve Smith.
From the 2011 NFL draft, only Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green has clearly outshone Smith from a numbers perspective. Green has caught 260 passes for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has caught 174 passes for 2,737 yards and 13 touchdowns, but missed 11 games last season with a foot injury. Both Green and Jones were first-round draft picks.
A waiting game?
The Ravens and Smith won't necessarily reach a deal this year, however. There's another scenario that could unfold between the team, whose chief negotiator is senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty, and Smith's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. This could become something of a waiting game. The Ravens could use this season to evaluate how Smith performs in a revamped offense. And he could avoid contract discussions during or before the regular season and weigh his options before becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.
Smith has made it clear that he wants to remain in Baltimore, though.
"I think if you're the Ravens you've got to let Torrey play this year out," said retired former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, an ESPN football analyst. "If he does what he's supposed to do, then you pay him after you see how he fits. I think that's the right move. You should hedge your bets before committing big dollars.
"Torrey is an outstanding young receiver. He keeps growing, but he's only going to be as good as his quarterback. Torrey's not a guy who can take over a game.. That's not who he is. He's a home run threat, and he needs someone to get him the ball. He has a special skill you can't teach."