Ravens Find Value At Receiver With Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken

The general perception of the Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver corps might not be terribly great at the moment—though I believe the 2016 perception was in part shaped due to the planned retirement of one of their starters—but at least one outlet believes that the team is producing strong value from that group relative to their contracts.

In a recent ranking of the league’s best wide receiver contracts, Pro Football Focus listed Ravens wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith as one and two on their list, each providing excellent value for the remainder of their deals—each in the final season of their respective deals, by the way.

Setting aside the long-awaited arrival of 2015 first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman, the Ravens have been for the most part carried offensively in the passing game by Smith and Aiken, while they were both healthy at least, with the former ending up missing much of last season due to injury.

Of Aiken, whose 2016 cap hit is $2.55 and is a pending free agent for the 2017 season, the site writes he earned their 19th-highest overall wide receiver grade after logging 955 of the Ravens’ 1155 offensive snaps last season.

Noting the poor quality of quarterback play through much of the year, author Eric Eager writes that “Aiken was able to haul in 75 of 121 targets for 944 yards, dropping just four passes while forcing eight missed tackles” and that his second half of the season commanded a top-10 grade. His $2.55 is the value of a second-round restricted free agent tender, by the way.

As for the veteran Smith, whose plan it was to retire after the 2015 before he was injured and chose to return in 2016, even choosing to not rule out playing beyond that, he has been critical to the Ravens’ offense since joining the team a couple years ago.

Eager describes Smith as “a marvel of consistency throughout his 15-year NFL career”, and writes that “as he has aged, he has simply become more valuable, maintaining substantial production while commanding marginal salaries relative to his peers”.

Prior to his season-ending mid-season injury, PFF had Smith as their second-highest rated wide receiver, which would be certainly more than worth the $4.17 he is expected to count against the salary cap for the Ravens as he returns for his 16th season and the final year of his deal.

In 2014, Smith caught 79 passes for 1065 yards and six touchdowns. In just seven games last year, he caught 46 passes for 670 yards and three scores, averaging 6.5 receptions, 96 yards, and .43 scores per game for Baltimore last year prior to his injury.

Whatever Perriman will add to the offense remains to be seen, and to be sure, the Ravens brought in other options at the wide receiver position, but Smith is no doubt to be the featured piece until he merits otherwise, and Aiken seems a reliable second option for them, if not a third.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Runner1967

    Smith a featured piece? Well that depends on how well his 37 year old body recovers from an acl tear.

  • Jaybird

    Achilles tear for smith

  • Jaybird

    If you look at the last 9 games of 2014 and the injury season of 2015 – no way in hell is Steve smith a bargain. His production fell off a cliff the last half of 2014. And I hope Mitchell REALLY DOES knock his block off this year.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Admittedly I like Steve Smith, his game and his feisty attitude…too bad he went to the Ravens…just can’t root for him to do well anymore…Achilles for a 37 y/o WR, imo, he’s done…if he gets 750+ yds this yr I will be surprised…on the other hand…Aiken is a good player.

  • Matthew Marczi

    His production last season was excellent.

  • Jaybird

    He missed 9 games. Matthew where are you when I argue in favor of how good Pouncey is and everyone says ” he’s injury prone” and dings him for it!

    Most of his production came in the first sevens games of 2014. The last 25 games , smith barely has 1000 yards .

    And Antonio brown had a cap hit of 7.1 mil last year. He had MORE than twice the production of smith( way more) but didn’t make twice money as smith. So how was Smith a value over brown? Please correct me if I’m wrong about the cap hits, that stuff is hind of confusing.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Obviously I was referring to Smith’s production in the seven games he played. You can’t fault a player for being injured, as you essentially said about Pouncey. I’m sure I’ve written an article or two since his latest injury defending him against unjustified attacks over being injury prone. As far as Brown goes, I didn’t even think of it but he should probably top that list, though I haven’t given it a great deal of thought. I mean he is still making decent wide receiver money, just not what he deserves as arguably the best at the position.