Baltimore Ravens

Production and big dollars still exist for older NFL wide receivers like Steve Smith

The first year that the New England Patriots traded for Randy Moss, the veteran wide receiver displayed elite form.

The mercurial receiver caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns in that 2007 season in New England after being acquired from the Oakland Raiders.


That prompted the Patriots to make a rare investment in an older wide receiver, signing him in 2008 to a three-year, $27 million contract that includes a $12 million signing bonus and $14.1 million guaranteed. It paid dividends as Moss would catch 69 passes for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns that year with 83 catches for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns the following season.

He was 31 that year.


As the Ravens host former Carolina Panthers star wide receiver Steve Smith for a visit, history shows there's been hefty production, as well as high compensation, for older receivers. And that's another reason why the Ravens -- who've had a void of play-making skills across the middle, toughness and leadership since trading Anquan Boldin a year ago -- are intrigued by the possibility of landing Smith. The five-time Pro Bowler turns 35 in May but has maintained a diligent workout and diet regimen.

Smith had just 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns last season while dealing with injuries, but he caught 79 passes for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns the previous season. The Ravens and other interested teams, including the San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots, are hoping that Smith could regain that 2012 form if they can convince him to join their respective rosters.

Smith could also be affordable considering that he has a total of $5 million coming to him from the Panthers (a $3 million guaranteed portion of his 2014 base salary and $2 million in a deferred signing bonus).

There are plenty of other examples of older wide receivers who have produced well past the age of 30.

The Dallas Cowboys signed Terrell Owens to a three-year, $25 million contract in 2006 when he was 32. He made 85 catches for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns that season, followed by 81 catches, 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns the next year.

When he was 34 during the 2008 season, the same age as Smith, Owens caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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And the Ravens got big numbers for years from veteran possession receiver Derrick Mason. They signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract in 2005 when he was 31.

Two years later, Mason caught a career-high 103 passes for 1,087 yards and five touchdowns


Even when Mason was Smith's age during the 2009 season, he caught 73 passes for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns.

Of course, there's always Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. He represents the gold standard of longevity and production.

When Rice left the 49ers and joined the Oakland Raiders in 2001, when he was 38.

That season, he caught 83 passes for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2002, Rice caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns and was named to his 13th Pro Bowl as the Raiders reached the Super Bowl.