Steve Smith will go out on his own terms.
The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver announced Wednesday that he will return for a 16th NFL season in 2016.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported nearly two weeks ago that Smith was eyeing a return, provided his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery was proceeding smoothly.
Smith had announced last August that 2015 would be his NFL swan song. He went on to exceed expectations, showing Pro Bowl form for seven weeks while joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the most productive “old” wide receivers in NFL history.
Just a week prior to Smith’s season-ending Achilles tear, word leaked that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh would not entertain trade offers for their star receiver. They would, instead, try to convince Smith to return for another season.
At the level Smith was playing, we suspect he would have opted for one more shot at a Super Bowl ring regardless of the injury.
Smith will be playing out the final year of a three-year, $10.5 million deal. At the bargain rate of $3 million in 2016, his roster spot is a no-brainer for a Baltimore team lacking stability at wide receiver.
One of the transcendent playmakers of his generation, Smith will enter 2016 ranked 11th in career receiving yards with a chance to enter the top-five by the end of his final season if he regains the form that had him intending to “wound, damage and puncture” on his way out of the league.
No matter how high Smith climbs on the career receiving charts, he should be a lead-pipe lock for the Hall of Fame in six years.