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Ravens' Steve Smith should secure Hall of Fame status in final season

When Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. announced his retirement before last season, the popular discussion was whether he was a Hall of Fame wide receiver.

By playing one more season, there should be no debate. If Smith produces 649 receiving yards in his final season, he would finish among the top seven in all-time receiving yards and surpass Marvin Harrison, who was just elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Saturday.

There was a time when receivers had a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame. After Jerry Rice was inducted in 2010, no receiver could garner enough votes to make it in 2011 and 2012.

Now, this marks the fourth straight year that a wide receiver has made the Hall of Fame: Cris Carter (2013) Andre Reed (2014) Tim Brown (2015) and Harrison.

Asked if he has a Hall of Fame career right now, Smith told the "Dan Patrick Show" last month: "Seeing other guys get in -- I think there was a logjam with some other guys that don't have championships -- I think my chances have increased a little bit."

Smith only needs 68 yards receiving to reach 14,000 yards, which is an important milestone to him and Hall of Fame voters. Five of the seven eligible players to eclipse that mark are in the Hall of Fame. The two snubs have been Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce, and it should only be a matter of time before they get in.

"It's part of the reason why I'm coming back," Smith said about hitting 14,000 yards. "It's one of the things to cross off the Christmas list."

Here are other reasons why Smith should be a lock for the Hall of Fame:

Consistency over time: He has produced eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. In comparison, here are the 1,000-yard seasons for the last three receivers to reach the Hall of Fame: Carter (eight), Reed (four), Brown (nine) and Harrison (eight). It should be noted that eight different quarterbacks threw passes to Smith in those eight 1,000-yard seasons.

Unique: Players who make the Hall of Fame should be special and accomplish things only a few have done previously. Smith and Brown are the only players in NFL history to eclipse 13,000 receiving yards and 4,000 return yards, according to the Ravens' public relations department.

Standing tall: Smith is in a class by himself because of his height. Out of NFL players listed at 5-foot-9 or shorter, nobody has more career receiving yards than Smith, according to ESPN Stats & Information. You can make the argument that there has never been another receiver like Smith.

Mark in the postseason: Smith has continually risen to the occasion. He has either produced over 100 yards receiving or scored a touchdown in 10 of 11 career playoff games. The best measuring stick is this: Smith has averaged 91 yards receiving in the postseason, which is better than Rice (77.4).

Smith would be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022, and he might have to wait a few more years like many of the great receivers. But, based on what Smith has accomplished, it will be hard to deny him a place among the all-time best pass-catchers.