We learned of a report last night that the Baltimore Ravens are believed to be bracing for a possible suspension spanning multiple games for Jimmy Smith, who has been their top cornerback for several years. The oft-injured former first-round pick is coming off an injury that ended his previous season but has been a full participant all training camp and looked likely to be prepared for the season opener.
Given the Ravens’ intentions to move ahead with second-year cornerback Marlon Humphrey as the starter opposite Smith instead of 10-year veteran Brandon Carr, it’s beginning to make more sense why they have kept Carr around rather than releasing him, which is something that had been speculated about a fair bit recently.
If Smith is going to miss some games at the start of the season, then it makes a lot of sense to keep Carr around to give you those guaranteed starts, not dissimilar to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ situation when they signed DeAngelo Williams, with both parties knowing that he would be starting the first couple of games.
While they may well keep him either way, the fact that he would be asked to start at the beginning of the season is a pretty compelling reason to explain why he is still on the roster when he ostensibly might otherwise not even be playing at all, given that they have other players such as Tavon Young to play in the slot position.
But while they have talent in the secondary, it is also combustible. As I mentioned at the top of this piece, Smith’s health is never something that you can rely upon and take for granted. He has only played 16 games twice in seven seasons, missing at least four in every other season. He has missed 26 games, an average of nearly four games per season.
And then there is Humphrey, who as a former first-round pick is talented, but is also still young and learning, similar to the Steelers’ Artie Burns. He made a lot of rookie mistakes last year and will continue to make those mistakes. He was not a full-time starter last season, but moved into a starting role after Smith was injured late in the year.
In other words, Baltimore cannot guarantee that either Smith or Humphrey will be capable, for one reason or another, of giving them a full season’s worth of quality starts, whether it is due to health or performance issues.
That is where Carr’s value lies, on the field, but he also presents a lot of value in the locker room. Humphrey credited the former Chief and Cowboys with teaching him how to be a professional during his rookie season, and he is very respected in the locker room, even as he is set to take a back seat as a reserve.