The Ravens suffered an excruciating divisional round loss to the Patriots last night, and could see their offensive coordinator leave for a head coaching position in the next few weeks. However, a pair of key free agents have expressed their desire to remain in Baltimore — both receiver Torrey Smith and running back Justin Forsett‘s contracts are expiring, but both indicated today that they’d like to re-sign with the Ravens.
Smith, 25, said he would prefer to not even reach free agency, meaning that he’d like to sign an extension before the start of the new league year (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun). Smith, a Virginia native, says Baltimore now feels like home after spending four years with the Ravens. For his career, Smith has averaged 53 receptions for nearly 900 yards and eight touchdowns; he didn’t meet those catch or yard marks in 2014, but did haul in 11 touchdowns. The Maryland alum is also the best receiver at drawing defensive pass interference — this season, he drew 12 PI calls, which led to 261 yards in field position for Baltimore.
The free agent receiver market is interesting in that in contains four elite options in Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, and Jeremy Maclin, a second-tier choice in Smith, and then a dramatic dropoff. Thomas and Bryant are increasingly unlikely to reach free agency, as they’ll either be extended or franchised by the Broncos and Cowboys, respectively. But for WR-needy clubs that miss out on Cobb or Maclin, Smith presents a fine alternative, especially for a team looking for a deep threat.
Smith, who graded as the league’s 37th-best receiver among 110 qualifiers per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), might not be in the Ravens’ plans despite his intentions to stay. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported in December that the club could let Smith walk in free agency, and given the other options mentioned above, he might not find a strong market for his services. PFR’s Rory Parks examined Smith’s contract case before the season, writing that Antonio Brown‘s five-year, $42.5MM deal with the Steelers could act as a benchmark. After something of a lackluster season, Smith probably won’t be able to match those years or that AAV.
Forsett, meanwhile, sounds a little less certain that he will be retained by the Ravens. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to show what I can do,” Forsett told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “It’s been a long time coming and I just want to build on it. I would love to stay here and be a Raven, but there’s a business part of that. I’ve experienced a lot of the business side of it, but hopefully we can get something done.” Forsett, 29, played 2014 under a one-year, $730K deal after being released by the Jaguars. Because he was on a minimum salary benefit contract, he isn’t eligible to sign a multi-year deal with Baltimore until free agency begins in March.
Forsett, a veteran of seven NFL seasons, enjoyed a career year in 2014, rushing for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, adding another 263 yards on 44 receptions — he also graded as PFF’s sixth-best running back. He’ll join an impressive free agent RB class that also boasts DeMarco Murray, Mark Ingram, Frank Gore, and Ryan Mathews, so although Forsett doesn’t have the wear-and-tear that other veteran RBs do, the abundance of options and his advanced age could limit his market. Still, he’s probably the best option for Baltimore in 2015 (especially if zone-blocking aficionado Gary Kubiak stays on as OC), and Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com predicted in November that the team would reward Forsett with a two- or three-year deal with a modest signing bonus.