The Ravens cut veteran linebacker Daryl Smith on Thursday, but general manager Ozzie Newsome left open the possibility that Smith would be back.
“While we are releasing Daryl, we are not closing the door on the possibility of him returning to the Ravens,” Newsome said in a statement released by the team.
Cutting Smith frees up roughly $2.6 million in cap space, a primary objective of the cash-strapped Ravens with free agency beginning next week. Smith, a 12-year veteran who turns 34 next week, commands respect in the locker room and from the coaching staff.
Newsome said in the statement that Smith "deserves an opportunity to see his market value at this time."
"With ‘Buck,’ you’re talking about one of the NFL’s highest-quality people," Newsome said. "We have been fortunate to have him with the Ravens, and his production has been outstanding.”
Smith led the Ravens in tackles in two of his three seasons with the team, including this past year (121). But he struggled in pass coverage and was often replaced in passing situations by Zach Orr late last season.
The Ravens definitely want to get younger and faster on defense, but they have depth concerns at inside linebacker. With Smith gone, Orr would become a presumptive starter alongside C.J. Mosley, with little-used Arthur Brown or Albert McClellan, who just re-signed with the team, next in line. The Ravens also figure to address the position in the draft.
Last season, the Ravens cut a veteran who was considered an outstanding locker room presence in Chris Canty, then brought him back a few weeks later on a cheaper, more cap-friendly deal. That helped both the team's bottom line and their younger players in that position group.
That could happen with Smith as well.
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