"If I had my way, I would like to get something done beforehand," said Torrey Smith when asked about testing the free-agent market. "But I understand it's a business, and nothing is guaranteed." (Kevin Richardson/BSMG)
Touting everyone from owner Steve Bisciotti to the men behind the scenes who cook and clean at the Ravens' training complex, wide receiver Torrey Smith made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of leaving town as a pending unrestricted free agent.
"It's more like home now," Smith said Sunday as the Ravens cleaned out their lockers after their 35-31 AFC divisional round loss Saturday to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. "It's kind of tough to leave home at times. I genuinely love the people here, from the owner to everyone who makes this building go. I really love being here."
Now that Smith's four-year, $3.389 million rookie contract that included a $964,896 signing bonus has expired, he's set to become an unrestricted free agent March 10. Eschewing any leverage ploys about other NFL suitors, Smith said his preference would be to sign a contract extension with the Ravens and avoid free agency altogether.
"If I had my way, obviously, I'd like to get something done beforehand so I can stay here," said Smith, a 2011 second-round draft pick from Maryland. "But I understand it's a business and nothing is guaranteed. Just let everything play out."
Entrenched in the community with charitable work and a wife and son, Smith, 25, said he plans to pursue a master's degree this offseason.
Preliminary contract negotiations in the past between Smith's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Ravens management haven't come close to a deal and no deal is imminent now, according to sources, with both sides remaining motivated to work out a financial compromise.
"I honestly went the whole year without worrying about it, but when things get kind of tight, it's like, 'Man!'" Smith said. "You start looking around, saying, 'This could be it.'"
Figuring out a common ground for Smith, who caught 49 passes for 767 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns in the regular season while veteran Steve Smith emerged as the Ravens' top wide receiver, could be complicated.
Although Torrey Smith has caught 213 passes for 3,591 yards and 30 touchdowns and has improved his overall game after entering the league as a pure deep threat, he hasn't emerged as a Pro Bowl wide receiver and put up huge numbers.
"I've been saying all year I didn't play the way I wanted to play this year," said Smith, who caught three passes for 62 yards against the Patriots while also being flagged twice for personal fouls, once for shoving cornerback Brandon Browner in the face and another for taunting. "Was it the worst? No. Was it what I wanted? No. I feel like I've done some pretty good things since I've been here, and there's still so much more to do."
Running back Justin Forsett expressed a similar sentiment after his career breakthrough season during which he rushed for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns.
Forsett, who also is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, played this season under a one-year, $730,000 contract for the veteran minimum. He provided a ton of value for a team that terminated Ray Rice's $35 million contract in September in the fallout from his domestic violence incident.
Under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement rules governing free agents, Forsett isn't eligible to sign a new contract with the Ravens until free agency officially begins in March. Both sides are motivated to talk and explore a potential new deal, according to sources, but nothing has accelerated at this stage.
"These guys are familiar with me, and they gave me my first real shot, but there's also a business side of it where unfortunately I've been in the friend zone for most of my career," said Forsett, who rushed for 129 yards on 24 carries against the Patriots and scored on a 16-yard touchdown reception. "Hopefully, we can get into a deeper commitment down the road and get some stability."
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Lardarius Webb are both under contract for next season, but they have hefty $16 million and $12 million salary-cap figures, respectively, for 2015 that may have to be reduced through restructured contracts to allow them to continue their tenure with the Ravens.
In the case of both players, sources said both sides are motivated to extend their employment with the Ravens.
"I ain't thinking about that," said Webb, who battled a lower back injury for most of the year before upgrading his play at the end of the season when his health improved. "I ain't got nothing to do about that, but, hey, I played lockdown ball. That's all you got to know."