The Ravens have signed the free-agent receiver Smith to a three-year contract worth $11.5 million, Shutdown Corner has learned, and a signing bonus of $3.5 million.
Smith was cut by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday and was contacted by five teams, but his first visit was to the Ravens — and they never let him get away.
GM Ozzie Newsome was hot on Smith's trail from the moment the Panthers cut the 13-year veteran. Smith spoke with Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak on Thursday night and then flew to Baltimore to meet with the team. On Friday, they agred to terms on a deal he is expected to sign soon.
Smith adds a veteran pass catcher to an offense that lacked consistent production with Joe Flacco last season. Flacco now has receiving options all over the field with deep threat Torrey Smith, seam weapon Dennis Pitta, short weapon Ray Rice (if he returns) and now Smith, who no longer has elite speed but can catch passes at short, intermediate and deep lengths.
The fit in Baltimore also is good because Smith's wife, Angie, is due to deliver the couple's fourth child later this summer, and Smith wanted to pick a team that was close to home so he can return for the delivery.
There's also a hidden benefit: The Ravens host the Panthers this season. Smith promised "blood and guts" when he gets the opporunity to face his old team.
Smith is the Panthers' leading receiver all time and their best player in franchise history. Yet the final few weeks in Carolina were tough for him as GM Dave Gettleman clearly wanted to move on from Smith, even willing to pay him the $5 million Smith was owed with nothing in return.
Gettleman tried to trade Smith after earlier being elusive about his future with the team. A trade market never materialized because Smith was slated to make $7 million this season, and the Panthers felt they had no other choice but to release him. Smith clearly felt slighted that Gettleman arrived at his decision to get rid of Smith without talking to him personally — or to his agent — about it first.
Four other teams were in the derby for Smith: the Patriots, Chargers, Seahawks and Redskins. Smith was believed to be interested in talking to the Patriots and perhaps were his first choice for a new team at one point. But Newsome and the Ravens convinced him to stay in town and not leave.
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