Steve Smith was not unemployed for long.
A day after being released by Carolina, the Panthers’ all-time receiving leader signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday on his first and only free agent visit.
Assuming he’s healthy, Smith will get a chance to face his former team when the Panthers play at Baltimore next season.
The NFL schedule will be announced in April. Based on what Smith said Thursday on his way out of town, it should be must-watch TV.
“I want to make sure that whatever team I go to, they’re going to get the best, in-shape 35-year-old they could possibly get,” Smith told WFNZ-AM. “And if that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on because there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere.”
The game will be at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, but you get the idea.
Smith’s deal with the Ravens is worth $11 million, with a $3.5 million signing bonus, according to a league source.
Because there was no offset language in his Panthers’ contract, Smith also will collect the full $5 million Carolina owes him.
The Ravens have been looking for a proven receiver since Anquan Boldin signed with San Francisco following Baltimore’s Super Bowl season in 2012.
When Smith asked Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to be traded a few years ago, the Ravens were one of the teams Smith mentioned as a landing spot.
During a conference call Friday, Smith said he had a trip scheduled to New England on Monday that he canceled. Smith said he also had an offer from San Diego, and received calls from Seattle and Washington, as well.
But Smith said he likes the Ravens’ tradition of using veteran players, and was impressed when Baltimore coach John Harbaugh told the mercurial Smith he wanted him to be himself.
Smith said the short flight from Charlotte to Baltimore also was important. His wife, Angie, is due in March with their fourth child.
Smith didn’t take any shots at the Panthers or general manager Dave Gettleman, whose decision to cut one of the team’s most popular players after 13 seasons angered much of the fan base.
“I have no ill feelings, or hold any grudges or upset. People may think I’m just saying that to say it,” Smith said. “I can’t be upset at an organization that gave me everything, that gave me the opportunity to display for future teams and for the Baltimore Ravens that I can still play.”
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