Jimmy Smith is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Here is why everything is interesting when it comes to the veteran corner:
In a perfect world Jimmy Smith retires a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He was drafted in 2011 and has been one of the best defensive backs in franchise history. Smith is still a very good perimeter cornerback who brings a lot to the table. Will the Ravens bring him back?
The Ravens need the market for Smith to be a calm one. The Ravens have Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and Tavon Young at the cornerback position. It could be argued that keeping Smith would be a luxury more than a necessity. The Ravens want Smith back, yet they could easily get priced out in free agency.
Smith is interesting because it’s hard to pinpoint what other teams are going to value him at in terms of asking price. Smith has only played a full 16 game schedule twice in his career. He only played in nine games in the 2019 season. Missing games on a pretty much yearly basis is probably a red flag for teams looking at Smith.
There’s also a question at where Smith is in the arc of his career. He’s 31 years old and isn’t a number one cornerback anymore. He’s not on the same plane as Marlon Humphrey or Marcus Peters. Smith is a solid number two option for most teams in the league. He’s a boundary cornerback that you can trust. There is a lot of value there.
If the Ravens bring back Smith than they have three shutdown corners. They have three players that can match up with just about any receiver. Then you put Tavon Young in the nickel cornerback spot and it’s a perfect top four group for the depth chart.
There wouldn’t be a team in the league with more trust in their cornerback group. With pass rush being a lingering concern and cap space being limited, the Ravens may want to keep their secondary the staple of their success. That’s what the Ravens would get if they brought back Smith.
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The interesting thing for the Ravens is that what happens with Smith will impact the Ravens decision with Brandon Carr. If the Ravens retain Smith, they more than likely have to say goodbye to Carr, whose cap hit is $7 million for 2020.
Carr and Smith are very different players and because this isn’t a perfect world, the Ravens will have to choose between the two players. The reason I would go with Smith is because he’s a more stingy coverage guy.
Smith can have flashes of elite corner play, because he’s got all the tools and he’s so fundamentally sound. The fact that Humphrey and Peters are the top two cornerbacks is actually pretty amazing. Smith is a top two corner for most teams in the league and at one point he was a top five player at his position.
Because the Ravens are thinner at safety than they have been in a while, the Ravens may prefer to keep Carr as a player they can convert to safety. Smith and Carr are two of the Ravens most dependable veteran players and as we head into March, their futures are up in the air. Eric DeCosta can justify just about anything here. He could bring back either player or move on from both of them.
The cornerback position is one where there is always going to be some sort of shuffling on the roster. Smith and Carr are on the backside of their time in the NFL and the Ravens may just add a defensive back in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Ravens found out that Anthony Averett wasn’t a stud last season. They still have hope for Iman Marshall, who they drafted out of USC last year. Rounding out the cornerback position with young talent is an idea with some merit. It’s a scary propitiation though, because with Smith and Carr, you know what you’re getting.
In the perfect world, Smith comes back to Baltimore. He offers more than Carr as a cornerback on the outside and the Ravens never want to thin out the cornerback position. The Ravens have every reason to want to make it work. Smith’s market will determine whether the Ravens can bring him back. If they can do it at the right number, they need to.