Ravens release veteran linebacker Daryl Smith

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The man who was asked to replace future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has been released by the Ravens.
Veteran inside linebacker Daryl Smith was cut on Thursday morning, ending his three-year run in Baltimore. The longtime Jacksonville Jaguar led the Ravens with 121 tackles last season, but he will turn 34 later this month and carried a $4.375 million salary cap figure for 2016.
However, general manager Ozzie Newsome left the door open for a potential return as the Ravens did in with Chris Canty and Vonta Leach in recent offseasons.
“While we are releasing Daryl, we are not closing the door on the possibility of him returning to the Ravens,” Newsome said in a released statement. “He deserves an opportunity to see his market value at this time. With Buck, you’re talking about one of the NFL’s highest-quality people. We have been fortunate to have him with the Ravens, and his production has been outstanding.”
His departure will create $2.625 million in cap space, but inside linebacker now becomes a greater position to address with young linebackers Zach Orr and Arthur Brown as well as veteran Albert McClellan being the only reserves on the current roster behind starter C.J. Mosley. Brown, a 2013 second-round pick, has been a major disappointment in three seasons, rarely seeing the field in anything but a special-teams capacity.
Smith was replaced by Orr in passing situations more and more as the 2015 season progressed after pass coverage had previously been his strength. The veteran collected four interceptions and 26 pass breakups in his first two seasons with the Ravens, but he had only three pass breakups and one pick last season.
Signed to a one-year, $1.125 million contract in June of 2013, Smith did an admirable job following in the giant footsteps of Lewis and is highly respected by teammates despite his quiet demeanor. In three seasons with the Ravens, Smith collected 372 tackles, nine sacks, five interceptions, 29 pass breakups, and four forced fumbles.
“We have been blessed to have a person like Daryl Smith on our team,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. “He has been a steady and intelligent player with grit. Buck is a special individual who has become a friend. Everyone who has spent time with him understands what I’m talking about. His numbers speak for themselves.”
The Georgia Tech product was entering the third season of a four-year, $13.6 million contract signed in 2014 and has played 12 seasons in the NFL.