Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and according to the team's Web site, working out an extension with Smith is among the Ravens top contractual priorities at this point.
An extension for Smith would seem to be a no-brainer. He has been one of the team's top receivers in all three of his NFL seasons. Owner Steve Bisciotti has said in the past that the team's philosophy is to pay "ascending players," and Smith would seem to fit that bill. Smith is just 25, he is entering the prime of his career and is coming off his first 1,000-yard season in 2014.
Smith has set roots down locally. He is a new father, he does community service around the region and his wife has been a teacher in the Baltimore County school system. He played collegiately at Maryland. He has said more than once that he has no desire to go anywhere else.
So what will it cost to keep him? Does he deserve true No. 1 receiver money? And would he give the Ravens the hometown discount?
ESPN's Matt Williamson classified Smith as "close, but not quite" a No. 1 receiver. Others in that category, according to Williamson, include Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson.
According to spotrac.com, which tracks player contracts, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald each will earn more than $16 million in 2014. Smith's not likely to get into that neighborhood, but could he be an $8 million man? According to spotrac.com, 13 receivers will earn $8 million in average salary in 2014. Does Smith belong in that group?
Jackson received a four-year, $32 million ($16 million guaranteed) deal with the Redskins this past spring. His per-year averages of 59 catches and 1,019 yards top Smith's (55-941), but Smith is two years younger and has none of Jackson's baggage.
Brown earned a five-year, $42.5 million extension before the final year of his rookie deal. Over the past three years, Brown has had two 1,000-yard seasons and has averaged 82 catches and 1,131 yards. He also has three return touchdowns.
Working out a long-term deal now would be cheaper than winning a bidding war for Smith if he hits the free agent marketplace after another 1,000-yard season. And if the Ravens offense indeed improves over last year, Smith should approach 1,000 yards again, even with Steve Smith and a healthy Dennis Pitta siphoning off some of those catches and yards.
The Ravens reportedly tried, and failed, to reach an extension with quarterback Joe Flacco before his contract year. Unable to reach a deal, Flacco played out his contract, won the Super Bowl and then cashed in big time.
Smith could do the same. But Smith, like every player, is one ACL injury away from having everything change. It would benefit both sides to get a deal done before the season.