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Could Jimmy Smith leave the Ravens after the next two seasons?

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Smith is set to become a free agent in 2016.

Patrick Smith

Perhaps there's no other player with more buzz riding on him this preseason than Jimmy Smith.

Smith improved considerably throughout the course of the 2013 season and showed why the Ravens selected him in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. He finished last year with two interceptions and 15 pass deflections, and handled in his own when asked to shadow Calvin Johnson in Baltimore's prime time game against the Lions.

The Ravens picked up the fifth year option of his rookie deal, meaning he's likely to stay in Baltimore through the 2015 season. But what about after that?

"I've got two years left, and I'm pretty sure I'll probably go all two years," Smith told reporters after practice on Friday. "That's my mindset anyway."

That could be Drew Rosenhaus talking through Smith, dropping a hint that if the Ravens don't pay up he'll walk. Then again, will the Ravens be able to afford him after two years? Assuming Smith continues to project upward, he could be demanding a top-five contract.

That would put him in the neighborhood of $10-15 million per year, with a lot guaranteed. The Ravens will surely try to get a deal done that makes sense on their end. But there's always an NFL team out there looking to dole out a lot of money to an upper-tier cornerback.

One way to keep Smith in 2016 would be to franchise him. However, even with the cap increasing, that could still cost a lot of money. In 2014, the franchise tag for a corner — based on the average of the top five salaries — $11.834 million.

One thing is for certain. The better Smith gets in Baltimore, the greater chance there is he could leave.