AFC North Roundup

CB Jimmy Smith gets a new deal in Baltimore, while Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown threatens to holdout if his contract isn't re-negiotated and in Cincinnati, WR A.J. Green knows the money will come.

Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith Receives Four-Year Contract Extension

The Baltimore Ravens announced on Tuesday they have extended the contract of fifth-year cornerback Jimmy Smith. According to Pro Football Talk, the extension spans four years and is worth a maximum value of $48 million, including $21 million guaranteed. FOX Sports’ Mike Garafalo has the full breakdown, which includes a $13 million signing bonus, a $1 million fully guaranteed salary for 2015 and $7 million in fully guaranteed salary for 2016. As The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson points out, the extension lowers Smith’s salary cap hit from $6.898 million this year to $3.6 million, freeing up much-needed money.

Smith, a Round 1 draft pick of the Ravens in 2011, appeared in 12 games as a rookie, with four starts including the playoffs. He was a bit player on defense until 2013 when he became a full-time starter alongside Lardarius Webb after Cary Williams departed in free agency. He has a career total of 140 combined tackles, five interceptions and 34 passes defensed. He totaled 28 combined tackles, one interception and eight passes defensed in 2014, when he missed the final eight games of the season with a foot injury. In 2013, when he started all 16 games, he ranked 35th out of 110 cornerbacks graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), allowing catches on just 54.3 percent of the passes thrown his way and giving up three touchdowns to two interceptions.

Getting a contract extension done during the offseason has been something on Smith’s mind for some time, saying earlier in the year that “Everybody wants to get every dollar they can. It’s a business. If you put your body at risk like this, you should get every single cent. But some things matter more. For me, the team matters. Winning matters to me. Where I’m at matters. The people. With my decision, that’s going to play a big factor. I’ve been here and they know me. That’s going to play a huge factor.” This is likely why he was more than willing to see his cap number go down in exchange for job security.

The cap savings isn’t the only thing the Ravens get by extending Smith’s contract now. They also secure themselves a player they think highly of. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said on Tuesday, via Jeff Zrebiec of The Sun, that he thinks Smith’s “best football is ahead of him.” Last year, Smith’s injury, combined with others suffered in the secondary, forced the Ravens to get creative at the position, plumbing their depth chart and putting the likes of Rashaan Melvin, Asa Jackson, Danny Gorrer and Anthony Levine on the field. All told, 10 players played at least 15 snaps at cornerback for the Ravens in 2014. As such, Baltimore ended the year with one of the most disappointing secondaries in the NFL; they are hoping for better injury luck in 2015.

Steelers: WR Antonio Brown Threatens Holdout if He Doesn’t Get New Contract

The NFL’s leading wideout in 2014, Antonio Brown, is holding out from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason conditioning program, writes NFL.com’s Kevin Patra. Brown may even sit out minicamp and training camp if he does not receive a new contract. Brown is currently in the middle of a five-year, $41.96 million extension he received in 2012. That contract has an average per-year value of $8.392 million, features $8.5 million in fully guaranteed salary, and an $8.5 million signing bonus. With a $6 million salary for 2015 and a restructured bonus of just under $2.1 million, he has a salary cap hit of $9.787 million this year.

Patra points out that while Brown ranks eighth among all wide receivers in total contract value, he is just 14th in yearly compensation. Given that Brown has clearly become not just one of the Steelers’ most valuable players but also one of the very best wideouts in the league, it’s understandable he’d want more money. In 2014, Brown caught 129 passes on 181 targets, for 1,689 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Holding out, however, may not be the way to get it. The Steelers do not reward players for skipping training camp, rather preferring the standoff to stalemate until the following year. Further, Spotrac estimates the Steelers will have around $4.6 million in salary cap space after their 2015 draft picks are signed—certainly not enough cash to give Brown the deal he desires.

Bengals: WR A.J. Green “Not Hurting for Money,” In No Rush for New Contract

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is in the final year of his rookie contract, but he’s not worried about when a new deal will be worked out. In speaking to Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson on Monday, Green said “I’m not hurting for money. I got my [fifth-year] option. That’s enough for now. I’m just focused on football. Next year will take care of itself.”

The fifth-year option Green mentions will pay him $10.176 million for 2015, so he is not hurting for money. And the Bengals will likely pony up a good chunk of change to sign him to a new contract—it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Green is one of the Bengals’ most important players, having caught 329 passes for 4,874 yards and 35 touchdowns in four seasons and surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in each.

The Bengals are also flush with salary cap space, with over $14 million expected in their coffers by Spotrac after signing their 2015 rookie class. This was by design; the Bengals like to carry money over, year by year, in order to have enough money stockpiled to re-sign their own productive veterans, like Green. Green doesn’t need to do anything right now but focus on football, as he said, because the Bengals will eventually get the contract done.


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