Although Steve Smith, Sr. announced in August that the 2015 season would be his last in the NFL, there were rumblings as early as October that he would be open to returning in 2016. Given that this year has been such a disappointment for the Ravens, who had legitimate playoff aspirations when the season began, and given that Smith’s excellent individual performance was cut short by a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 8, it makes sense that the diminutive wideout, renowned for his toughness and competitive spirit, would want to give it one more shot in 2016.
And according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, that’s exactly what Smith plans to do. Citing sources who stay in regular contact with Smith, Rapoport says that if Smith feels like his usual self when he fully recovers from his torn Achilles, he will return next season, which will be the final year of the three-year, $11.5MM deal he signed with Baltimore prior to the 2014 campaign. Rapoport adds that Smith is out of his walking boot, and he is focusing on hydrotherapy at the moment in an effort to avoid atrophy and to ensure that he can regain his usual explosiveness and cutting ability.
Over the course of his prolific career, Smith has compiled 13,392 receiving yards–good for 11th all-time–to go along with 76 receiving touchdowns. That is not to mention the success he enjoyed as a return man in the early part of his career with the Panthers, his five Pro Bowls, and his two First Team All-Pro selections, all of which make him a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. And although the 36-year-old Utah product showed some signs of slowing down towards the latter stages of the 2014 season–a season in which he nonetheless posted 1,065 receiving yards and six scores–he bounced back with a vengeance in 2015, averaging nearly 100 yards per game before being sidelined.
The Ravens will surely look to supplement their receiving corps this offseason, but they would love to see Smith return, as he has proven that, despite his age, he can still be an invaluable weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco, whose season was also cut short by an Achilles injury.