Here are five reasons why wide receiver Steve Smith’s decision to return, not retire, is huge for the Ravens:
1. Smith was playing like he was 26, not 36, before his injury.
Smith was by far the Ravens’ best receiver before tearing his Achilles with 46 catches for 670 yards and three touchdowns in seven games. While there’s no way of knowing if Smith will have the same speed and cutting ability, even Smith at 80 percent of what he was is better than most NFL receivers.
2. His competitive attitude rubs off on younger players.
Full speed is the only speed that Smith knows, whether it’s a practice or game day. His intensity is infectious, and sets the bar high for everyone else. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken, having his best season, regularly talks about the Smith’s influence. Having that kind of locker room leader return is a positive.
3. Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee injury) and Smith have never played together.
Perriman’s speed and Smith’s all-around ability could be a formidable one-two punch if both stay healthy next season. Aiken will be a restricted free agent, but assuming he returns, that trio would give the Ravens a nucleus to solid wide receiver nucleus to build with.
4. Smith is approaching some important milestones.
He needs just 39 catches for 1,000 career receptions. Only 13 receivers have reached 1,000 career catches. Smith also needs 1,068 receiving yards to reach 15,000 for his career. The bigger Smith’s numbers, the better his chances for the Hall of Fame.
5. There’s no such thing as having too many playmakers.
The Ravens can’t expect Smith to be a 1,000-yard receiver forever, but having him as part of the mix next year is a plus for quarterback Joe Flacco and the entire offense.
MORE RAVENS: Steve Smith announces plans for next season