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Could Steve Smith be productive as a slot receiver with Ravens?

The Ravens could soon address their wide receiver position with a player who a week ago didn't appear to be available.

The Carolina Panthers have released veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, and my colleague Aaron Wilson has been reporting for a couple days now that there would be mutual interest between the Ravens and the 34-year-old if that happened.

Smith would be appealing for a few reasons. With 836 career receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns, Smith is a proven playmaker, something the Ravens would probably like to add to a pretty inexperienced group of receivers. He is also a fiery, competitive player, something the Ravens lost when they traded Anquan Boldin last offseason. Plus, Smith wouldn’t factor into compensatory pick calculations.

The Ravens also are looking for a shifty slot receiver who can get open and make catches on third down. But let’s pump the breaks a little when slotting Smith into that role full-time.

The last season that Smith ran more than 20 percent of his routes out of the slot was in 2010, and that was he least productive season in the past decade. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith lined up in the slot on 45.3 percent of his routes that season and had just 16 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns out of the slot. His 1.04 yards per route run out of the slot didn’t even crack the top 100 among receivers.

In 2011 and 2012 combined, Smith had just 12 catches as a slot receiver as he lined up on the outside on more than 90 percent of his routes run, per Pro Football Focus.

Last season, he was in the slot a little more often. He was a slot receiver on 15.5 percent of his routes run, catching 11 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. His 1.49 yards per route run in the slot ranked 66th among receivers and was comparable to former Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss.

That’s not to say that Smith couldn’t possibly shift into that role at the tail end of his career. He still has pretty good wheels and the ability to quickly change directions, and he has the necessary toughness and competitiveness to excel in that role. But despite being 5-foot-9, Smith has spent much of his career as a dangerous deep threat on the perimeter.

Still, even though he was held under 70 receiving yards in every regular season game in 2013, Smith could potentially be a nice secondary weapon in the Ravens offense.

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