If Steve Smith intends to follow through on his plans for retirement, he may have just played in his last game, as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed to reporters that the veteran receiver tore his Achilles during today’s contest against the Chargers (Twitter link). Smith will miss the remainder of the year, and given that he has vowed to call it a career after the season, the mercurial pass-catcher may have seen his final game action.
At 36 years old, Smith was in the middle of a second consecutive solid season with Baltimore, averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game and having scored three times. The three-time All Pro, who caught 79 balls for more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns during his first year with the Ravens, would finish with the 11th-most receiving yards in league history, with nearly 14,000.
Whether Smith actually retires is an open question, and one that Harbaugh addressed today in his remarks to reporters. “I have a feeling Steve Smith will be back,” said Harbaugh. Later, in a message to Smith, Harbaugh said, “You’re going to write the final chapter of your career in a way that nobody expects” (Twitter links). Within the past several weeks, Smith confirmed that he was “still on schedule” to retire at season’s end, but even his agent is not convinced. It’s fair to wonder if this painful end to his season, in addition to Baltimore’s disappointing year as a team, will force Smith to reconsider.
More pressing for the Ravens is how to replace Smith in the starting lineup. Kamar Aiken figures to see more targets with Smith out of action, while Marlon Brown and recent trade addition Chris Givens could also be in line for additional work until first-round pick Breshad Perriman returns from a PCL injury (and perhaps presuming Perriman returns at all this season is a mistake).
If Smith does reverse his decision and return for the 2016 season, he’d be playing under the third and final year of a deal he signed prior to the 2014 season. He’d be paid a base salary of $3MM, and account for a cap hit of roughly $4.17MM.