This is a great time to be a top NFL cornerback. And Jimmy Smith of the Ravens is surely paying attention.
Joe Haden of the Browns became the league’s highest-paid cornerback Tuesday, signing a five-year, $68 million contract extension, including $45 million guaranteed according to several reports. That ended Richard Sherman’s brief stay as the league’s highest-paid corner. Sherman cashed in big last week, signing a four-year, $57 million deal with the Seahawks, including $40 million guaranteed.
The Ravens picked up the fifth-year option on Smith this offseason, so he is under contract through 2015. But at some point between now and the end of that deal, the Ravens will likely want to lock up Smith long-term, before hit hits the free agent market. And if Smith continues to improve, a new deal for him is going to be pricey.
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Smith isn’t at the Pro Bowl level of Haden, Sherman, or Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals – the next corner likely to sign a megadeal. But Smith is young (25 years old) with the size (6-foot-2) and quickness to matchup with the league’s taller receivers. He’s a former first-round draft pick coming off his best season.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said it before the draft - you can’t have too many corners. Not in today’s NFL, with teams using multiple wide receivers sets, looking for the one-on-one mismatch they can exploit. Last weekend’s draft was loaded with talented wide receivers, with a dozen going in the first two rounds. Every team is looking for cover corners. That gives the best ones, like Haden, even more leverage in contract talks.
When Smith looks at today’s NFL landscape, he has leverage. Running backs aren’t getting much respect. But cornerbacks are getting paid.