Can Ravens' target Steve Smith succeed at age 35?

Can Ravens' target Steve Smith succeed at age 35?
March 14, 2014, 10:45 am
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Wide receiver Steve Smith, cut loose by Carolina on Thursday, will be visiting the Ravens facility Friday, and all indications are they would like to sign him to be that veteran, chain-moving receiver with an attitude that they lacked last season.

Will he sign on the Ravens' dotted line? Or will he continue to entertain offers from other teams? How much will he cost? And perhaps the biggest question: How much does a receiver who will be 35 next season have left in the tank?

Smith ranks 19th in NFL history with 12,197 receiving yards. Some receivers near Smith on that list excelled well into their 30s, but for others, 35 hit them like a brick wall. And some notable names -- Chad Ochocinco, Michael Irvin, Torry Holt -- were out of football by age 35.

First, Smith's numbers in his first 13 years, for comparison's sake: 836 catches, 12,197 yards, 67 touchdowns, seven 1,000-yard seasons.

Perhaps the receiver whose numbers most closely resemble Smith's is former Rams wideout Isaac Bruce. Over his first 13 seasons, Bruce had 887 catches, 12,278 yards, 80 touchdowns and eight 1,000-yard seasons. As a 35-year-old, Bruce had 55 catches for 733 yards and four touchdowns. The Ravens would be thrilled with those numbers from Smith this year.

Here is how some other receivers in Smith's peer group performed at age 35:

Derrick Mason: 73 catches, 1,028 yards, seven TDs

Derrick Mason's numbers over his first 13 seasons (783-11,089) weren't as gaudy as Smith's but he had staying power, putting together his eighth (and last) 1,000-yard season at age 35. His numbers were still solid at age 36 (61-802) and he was let go the following offseason.

Mushin Muhammad: 65 catches, 923 yards, five TDs

Smith's Carolina teammate played one more season with the Panthers at age 36 (53-581) in 2009.

Reggie Wayne: 38 catches, 503 yards, two TDs

Wayne was on pace for another 1,000-yard season, which would have been his ninth, but was lost after Week 7 with a season-ending knee injury. He is expected to return this year at age 36.

Marvin Harrison: 20 catches, 247 yards, one TD

Harrison's run of eight straight 1,000-yard seasons ended at age 35, when he missed most of the season with a knee injury. He played one more season (60-636, 5 TDs).

Plaxico Burress: 3 catches, 42 yards

Burress, drafted the year before Smith, played four games for the Steelers at age 35, signed as a late-season replacement. His career was derailed by a nearly two-year prison term on a gun charge.

Jerry Rice: seven catches, 78 yards, one TD

Hard to call anyone Rice's peer. His season as a 35-year-old was essentially lost to a torn ACL, but he was far from done; Rice had three more 1,000-yard seasons, the last at age 40.

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