Recruited by Patriots as free agent, Steve Smith happy he signed with Ravens

Steve Smith leaves the field after the Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-17, in their AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field.
Steve Smith leaves the field after the Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-17, in their AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

The telephone call from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick came in last March when veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was at the airport in Charlotte, N.C., on his way to visit the Ravens.

Although a visit was scheduled with the Patriots, it was always a tentative meeting because the Ravens were getting first crack at persuading the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to join them after he was cut by the Carolina Panthers.


The Ravens didn't let Smith get out of the building and he signed a three-year, $11 million contract. As the Ravens prepare to play the Patriots on Saturday night in an AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium, Smith told The Baltimore Sun he's happy with how things worked out.

"Yeah, I talked to [Belichick] and it was a great opportunity as well," said Smith, who was also pursued by the San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins. "Anytime you have an opportunity to go to some teams, it's always good. When your phone stops ringing, you need to start thinking about if I'm in the right profession."

Smith, 35, had a resurgent season for the Ravens, leading them with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns. After Smith made his decision, the Patriots re-signed wide receiver Julian Edelman and he had a productive season with 92 catches for 972 yards and four touchdowns.

"Steve's had a real good career," Belichick said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "I think he's a real good player on all three levels: short, intermediate and deep. He's got good run-after-catch skills, so he can take a short pass a long way.

"Good route runner and he's made some big plays on the deep ball with his speed and ball skills and downfield judgment, and obviously with a quarterback who can throw it very well down there. Yeah, he's a dangerous guy."

Smith has provided toughness and leadership for the Ravens while averaging 13.5 yards per catch. He caught five passes for 101 yards during a 30-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Saturday during the AFC wild-card round.

"Fire, he's a playmaker," wide receiver Torrey Smith said when asked what Steve Smith adds to the offense. "He's not old, he doesn't play old at all. He's done a great job all year for us. He brings a different type of wisdom, too. To have him here has been a blessing for us."

Smith has caught 915 passes for 13,262 yards and 73 touchdowns in his career.

"Steve is a great player," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said during a conference call. "He's obviously done a great job for that team. He's had a great season. He's really a dynamic playmaker for them.

"He's been that way when he was at Carolina and he continued with the Ravens. He's got, obviously, a great will. He's got great hands. He's just one of the great all-around players in the NFL. He's tough to slow down. Hopefully, we can find a way to do that."

Steve Smith does have a challenging matchup this week against six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Patriots also have one of the more physical cornerbacks in the league opposite Revis in Brandon Browner.

Smith hasn't been extremely productive in previous games against Revis when he was with the Panthers and the cornerback was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Two great corners, watching film," Smith said. "I would anticipate Revis is watching film on me. We've both been in the league a little bit of time."

Smith said Saturday is the kind of postseason game he'd hoped to be involved in when he joined the Ravens.


"It's a matchup that you have to be in, it's a matchup you expected to play," Smith said. "There's only so many teams left and I'm fortunate enough and we're fortunate enough as the Ravens to be on this stage against a very good team. I came here to have fun and that's what we're doing, having fun."

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