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For Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, playoffs could mean big payday

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, set to become a free agent after the season, could elevate his stock with a big performance in the playoffs.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, set to become a free agent after the season, could elevate his stock with a big performance in the playoffs.(Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith would never talk about a new contract during the season, but the postseason is money time for NFL players.

If you want fame, play well in the playoffs. If you want icon status, turn in impressive numbers throughout your career in the postseason. If you want a new, lucrative contract, come up big in what is called "the second season." All he has to do is look at teammate Joe Flacco's 2012 postseason performance and the $20 million per year contract that he received.

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It's Smith's time to come up big.

"I wanted to make it to the playoffs regardless," said Smith, who becomes an unrestricted free agent when this season ends. "That has absolutely nothing to do with my future. I'm focused on now. Everything else in the future [will] take care of itself.

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"We're trying to get back to where we were a couple years ago, so everything will take care of itself. I'm not concerned about myself at all. We have a chance as a team … I'd be selfish as hell to be worried about myself."

Smith, who will make nearly $837,200 this season, might need to be a little selfish at this point. He hasn't proven to be a good No. 2 receiver, much less a No. 1, when he hits the open market.

But he can change that with great performances in the playoffs. The former Maryland star might have heated up with four catches for 83 yards in the Ravens' 20-10 win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Smith had the two biggest plays of the game. First, he outleaped Browns cornerback Joe Haden for a 53-yard reception in the fourth quarter. On the next play, he beat Haden again on a post pattern across the middle for a 16-yard touchdown with 7:40 left. It eventually proved to be the game-winner.

The Ravens need Smith to be a game-breaker throughout the playoffs. He has good size and outstanding speed. If he can become a consistent weapon and draw frequent double teams, that would help open up the middle of the field for veteran receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels.

But there are a couple things that have hurt Torrey Smith this season. He drops passes because he catches with his chest instead of getting his arms and hands extended away from his body. And he still hasn't proven that he is more than just a speed receiver because he only seems to be productive in running slant-ins, go routes and post patterns. Curls and comebacks?

That's not his forte.

And then there is the absence of a mean streak. Torrey Smith is just too nice. He is the kind of player every father wants his daughter to date, the man who is always in a picture with a bunch of kids or petting some dog.

He isn't as ornery as a Steve Smith or as stubborn as Derrick Mason. Certainly, not as game-day nasty as Anquan Boldin.

But he is competitive if the right buttons are pushed. When a certain sports columnist wrote that Torrey Smith wasn't productive during the first two games of his rookie season, Torrey Smith took offense.

In his third career game, his first three career receptions were touchdowns of 74, 41 and 18 yards. Whenever Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor has irritated him, Smith has dominated him throughout the years.

Somehow, the Ravens have to get him going because they are going to need to score points, especially with their secondary. Pittsburgh is averaging 27.2 points per game, No. 7 in the league. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns in leading an offense that is averaging 411.1 yards per game.

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The Ravens are going to need Smith, and they won't mind if he uses a great postseason as a bargaining chip when negotiations begin after the season.

Overall, Smith has had a successful career, but his production tapered off near the end of the 2013 season. He has just 49 catches for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. At times, he hasn't been healthy and there have been other times when he has struggled to hold onto the ball or to get away from physical cornerbacks.

But the 2014 regular season is over. It's showtime now.

Hall of Fame receivers like Lynn Swann built their reputations on making acrobatic catches during the postseason, and Jerry Rice made a living turning short passes into long gainers in a San Francisco offense similar to the one used by the Ravens.

Why not Smith?

If he does, it's something he and the Ravens would definitely like to bank on.

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