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Ravens express pessimism about retaining Torrey Smith

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens want to keep Torrey Smith, and the soon-to-be free-agent wide receiver wants to stay.

But the Ravens expressed pessimism about retaining their best deep threat two weeks before the start of free agency. It almost sounded as if the Ravens have conceded Smith will sign elsewhere.

Despite what both sides would like to happen, the reality of the situation is the Ravens don't have much salary cap room and there's a precedent of teams overpaying playmaking wide receivers.

"The difference between what we can pay Torrey and what he gets on the open market ... Mike Wallace got $10 million [actually, $11 million signing bonus from the Miami Dolphins] and I don't think anybody thinks that was a good deal," Bisciotti said Tuesday at the "State of the Ravens'" press conference. "There's always a team that has lots of money that wants to bring in playmakers. Those guys are going to get those deals. I think we're going to have to take it on the chin and move on."

Smith is coming off a season in which he had career lows in receptions (49) and receiving yards (767). But, like Wallace, Smith can stretch the field.

Smith's 16.9 yard-per-catch average ranks first in Ravens history and is fourth in the NFL since 2011, when he was drafted in the second round by the Ravens. He also scored 1o touchdowns in his final 11 regular-season games.

At the end of the season, Smith made it clear that he would like to return. He even said that he wanted to get a deal done before free agency began.

The problem is, the Ravens have to make cuts or reach extensions to get under the projected $145 million salary cap. There won't be much room for spending.

"Let's be frank, do you hope Torrey doesn't break the bank in the open market so we can get him for our number? That's a hard thing to say," Bisciotti said. "I care about the kid. I want him to maximize his earnings. At the same time, the more successful he is at doing that, the less successful we are in retaining him. I don't like to stand up here and say I'm rooting against a guy. But we've got to find a number. And some of the numbers that are thrown out there, quite frankly we can't match. We don't have that kind of space."

As general manager Ozzie Newsome pointed out, the Ravens have paid market value for such players as quarterback Joe Flacco, guard Marshal Yanda and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. But they've also chosen not to match big-money deals given to the likes of pass-rusher Paul Kruger, defensive lineman Arthur Jones and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

"We have a history of retaining our players, especially players who have been productive," Newsome said. "We also have a history of allowing our players to go out and maximize themselves in the market and go play for other teams. Where that lies with Torrey, we'll find out between now and the opening of the league year [March 10]."