- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Patriots had arranged a free-agent visit for former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith on Monday, but the Ravens ensured that Smith wouldn't make it to New England by signing him to a three-year, $11.5 million contract Friday.
"I had spoken to Coach Belichick personally when I was at the airport on my way to Baltimore," Smith told reporters on a late Friday conference call, according to the Baltimore Sun.
"We had a conversation that indicated that they were very interested in me. And I was also open to going there as well, but I really felt like after sitting here that this is the place that I felt would best fit me and they convinced me that I would fit in here very well."
Smith, one of the top competitors in the NFL, would have been a great fit in New England. It is easy to envision a potentially dynamic connection he would have had with quarterback Tom Brady.
But family considerations for Smith also made Baltimore a more ideal choice, as it's closer to Charlotte.
In some ways, this reminds me of the 2005 offseason when the Patriots were interested in free-agent receiver Derrick Mason, who like Smith was known for his competitiveness and toughness. But the Ravens, in part due to Mason's family considerations, trumped the Patriots that year as well.
If there is a silver lining for the Patriots, it's that the Ravens probably now will be out of the mix for free-agent receiver Julian Edelman, potentially clearing his path for a return to New England.