Did one catch secure the return of Torrey Smith next season?
In the fourth quarter of Baltimore's 20-10 win over Cleveland, with the Ravens down 10-6, quarterback Joe Flacco lofted a pass up for Smith, who was being guarded by Browns cornerback Joe Haden.
Smith has had a knack for coming down with clutch passes in the past. This catch was the most clutch this season. Baltimore's offense was stagnant all game, but this one moment seemed to lift them out of whatever funk they were in.
Smith and Haden tussled some with their hands before Smith got in the air to try and grab a jump ball from Flacco. Smith is 6-0, 205 pounds but looked like he was 6-4 and 225 on this play. On the next play, Smith caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in a tight window to put the Ravens in front. It's the kind of sequence that makes you realize that Smith is a key component to this offense that needs to be back in 2015. Smith will be an unrestricted free agent once the league year ends.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee is the kind of player you want representing your franchise. He's constantly doing community work when he's not on the football field. He never complains if the ball isn't going his way in a given game. He plays through injuries. He's played a huge role in team wins over the past four years. A durable receiver, Smith has yet to miss a game in his career.
In a contract year, Smith didn't post the best numbers to prove his case to be brought back. He had a single-season worsts with 767 yards and an average of 15.7 yards per catch. Then again, he recorded 11 touchdowns, a single-season best. You could chalk that up to the learning curve of Gary Kubiak's offense, which saw Smith get off to a slow start this year. And also to Steve Smith's addition, with the wily veteran going for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns.
Smith is entering the prime of his career and showed why he's a valuable asset to the Ravens. It could be a difficult negotiation process with the Ravens wanting to get the best value possible with Smith feeling he deserves more. But despite the dip in his yardage total, Smith has proved over the past four years that he's worthy of being back with the franchise.
The Ravens should do the right thing and lock him up this offseason. Therefore, they can ensure that more plays such as Sunday's happen for years to come.