Ravens veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith stabilized the defense this season after Ray Lewis' retirement.

Signed in June to a one-year, $2.125 million contract, Smith delivered on the Ravens' relatively modest investment after being signed to the equivalent of a prove-it deal after an injury-plagued final season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Smith led the Ravens with 123 tackles, and he also had five sacks and three interceptions. He finished second on the team with 19 pass deflections.

Now, Smith is hoping to return next season.

"Most definitely, I love it here and would love to be back," Smith said. "We'll see how it goes."

Smith was the Ravens' most productive inside linebacker and helped a position in flux after Lewis retired and Dannell Ellerbe signed a $35 million contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Smith excelled in run support and pass coverage.

As far as Smith has heard, the Ravens share his desire to extend their relationship. The 31-year old will have an upgraded market value after a resurgent season.

"I think they want me back, but we'll see," Smith said. "Only time will tell. I know they've got a lot of stuff to do this year, and a lot of guys up [with their contracts]. So, we'll see. I came in and did the best I could, so we'll see what happens."

Even with Smith's presence, though, the Ravens defense often faltered in the fourth quarter and failed to make key stops.

What happened?

"I wish I knew," Smith said. "If I knew the answers, we would have benched all of that. Just unraveling, I guess, toward the end, and not being able to get off the field, make the play that we need to make or miscommunication. I mean, hey, it was a number of issues that came up over the season, and that hurt us."