Torrey Smith was productive for Ravens, but parting is good for both sides

"These last four years have been amazing for me," Torrey Smith wrote Sunday. "I have been able to grow as a player, and more importantly, as a man." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Regardless of local ties or community interests, the Ravens and wide receiver Torrey Smith made good business decisions over the weekend.

Even though it won't be official until late Tuesday afternoon, Smith is expected to leave the Ravens and play for another NFL team in 2015, ending a strong four-year career in Baltimore.


Smith had become a spokesman for the team, only a level below iconic figures such as Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed in popularity. But their on-the-field play matched their charisma, and Smith's never did.

When it came time for the Ravens to ante up and deliver them lucrative contracts, they did so. With Smith about to enter free agency, the Ravens declined to pay him — forcing Smith to leave.


Times have changed. Unlike previous decades during which the NFL gave enormous contracts to rookies who had yet to play a down in the NFL, their first contract is basically market value and the second one is the most lucrative of their career.

Smith has the right to demand big money. He had 213 receptions for 3,591 yards, 30 touchdowns and averaged 16.9 yards per catch in his four seasons here. His speed altered defenses.

But the Ravens don't need to break the bank for Smith. He is good, but not great. He is an impact player, but not a consistent game changer. After four years, you really have to wonder how much more he could improve, and wouldn't it be smarter to invest money in a rookie who might have a bigger upside?

There are some in Baltimore who question Smith because he isn't as fiery as the Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant or as flamboyant as former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.

But Smith has always been an honorable man, one who appreciates fatherhood and being a leader in the locker room. If there was controversy or if he was playing poorly, Smith didn't shy away from tough questions.

Wherever there was charity work, Smith always seemed to show up. He had a genuine affection for Baltimore. He was a man's man, which shouldn't be confused with his play on the field.

As a second round NFL draft pick coming out of the University of Maryland in 2011, there were always high expectations for Smith. He was expected to be the No. 1 receiver in 2013, but virtually disappeared in the second half of the season. He had a slow start at the beginning of 2014 but finished with 49 receptions for 767 yards and a career-high 11 touchdown.

The problem with Smith is that he fit the stereotype of a "speed guy." He often caught passes with his chest instead of getting his arms and hands extended away from his body.

Big, physical cornerbacks could slow him in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Smith seldom went up and challenged defensive backs for balls, which was clearly evident in the final quarter of the team's playoff loss to New England this season.

In other words, he never became a complete receiver. He could run streaks, go routes or slant-ins, but nothing that required a significant change of direction. Imagine if Torrey Smith ever ran a comeback route like Derrick Mason — with his speed, he would have been nearly impossible to stop.

Smith had ample time to improve, and has worked with three different coordinators in Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell and Gary Kubiak, as well as veteran receivers such as Anquan Boldin, Mason and Steve Smith.

This isn't to say Torrey Smith hasn't been a productive player, but the Ravens can't justify paying him the money he will demand in free agency.


No one should blame Smith from walking away, either. He can't afford to leave millions on the table by re-signing with the Ravens. Some times when a player leaves to play elsewhere, they improve, and that could happen if Smith ends up in San Francisco with former Boldin and former Terps tight end Vernon Davis.

In this situation, neither the Ravens nor Smith walk away with any hard feelings. They both just made good business decisions.


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