Steve Smith is eager to continue his NFL career in Baltimore, where he’s just a short flight from his permanent home in Charlotte.
The longtime Panthers standout wide receiver didn’t waste time finding a new home, signing a three-year contract with the Ravens about 24 hours after being released by Carolina.
The Ravens announced the signing of the 34-year-old Smith on Friday.
Smith was released by the Panthers after 13 seasons. He should provide a solid weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco.
“This has been an organization with a history of giving veteran players a chance and meshing them with younger players,” Smith said on a conference call Friday.
Smith arrived in Baltimore late Thursday night and negotiations and meetings continued into the early morning hours on Friday.
Smith said he had a contract offer from the San Diego Chargers and cancelled a visit with the New England Patriots scheduled for Monday. Smith added the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks also expressed interest.
One of the reasons he chose Baltimore, he noted, is because it’s about a one-hour flight to Charlotte, where his family will continue to live. Smith’s wife, Angie, is expecting their fourth child later this year.
Smith ranks 19th in the NFL in career receptions. He caught 64 passes for 746 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. Smith is Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions (836), yards receiving (12,197) and touchdowns (67).
Baltimore has had a void at wide receiver since trading Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers after winning the Super Bowl in February 2013. The Ravens went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“We have added one of the top competitors in the NFL to the Ravens,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “He’s a proven player who has performed the best in big games and biggest situations. He adds toughness to our offense.”
The Ravens will play the Panthers in 2014 in Baltimore, something Smith is clearly looking to forward to. He told Charlotte-based radio station WFNZ-AM on Wednesday that fans will need to wear goggles because there will “blood and guts everywhere” on the field when he plays the Panthers.
He backed off those comments Friday, saying it was a tongue-in-cheek statement.
“It wasn’t that I don’t like the organization,” Smith said. “I have nothing but respect. My teammates have been telling how much they are going to miss me. I have no ill feelings and I’m not upset. I can’t be upset at an organization that gave me everything and allowed me to display for other teams that I can still play.”
Smith said he’s excited about the Ravens’ offense, calling it a good fit.
He also made it clear he no longer views himself as a No. 1 receiver, instead seeing himself as a player comparable to Kevin Walter, who played under new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. Smith has wanted to play in the slot for the last few years and could get that chance in Baltimore.
“I know this system and seen the very creative ways they have gotten guys the ball and I want to be a part of that,” Smith said.
Smith has never won a Super Bowl.
“We’re going to swing for the fence,” Smith said. “But chasing a ring and making it about all those other things, you can’t do that.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Smith a “Ravens-style player.”
“He always has been in our eyes, it’s just that he has been playing for another team,” Harbaugh said. “We have always been challenged playing against him.”
The Ravens also got a four-year deal with linebacker Daryl Smith that solidifies the middle of Baltimore’s defense. The sides reached agreement on Smith’s 32nd birthday.
“I’m really just fired up. I knew I wanted to be back and I’m happy we could come to an agreement so I could get back in there for four years,” Darryl Smith said.
He started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2013 and led the team with 123 tackles. He also had a career-high 19 passes defensed, setting a Ravens record by a linebacker.
In other moves Friday:
—Chicago agreed to a one-year contract with two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman. Tillman, 33, is coming off a season limited to eight games because of a torn right triceps.
—Eight-year veteran cornerback and rookie negotiator Cortland Finnegan found a new home in Miami after an injury-plagued 2013 with the Rams. Finnegan said he spoke with a lot of general managers and head coaches around the NFL, but his only free-agent visit was to Miami, and the 2008 All-Pro represented himself.
The Dolphins added former Rams guard Shelley Smith with a $5.5 million, two-year contract.
—Detroit re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who will get a $16 million, four-year contract with half the money guaranteed. He has 284 receptions for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns in five NFL seasons with the Lions.
—Green Bay re-signed defensive tackle B.J. Raji to anchor their defensive line. He started all 16 games last season for the Packers.
—Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told The Associated Press on Friday, “You can say I’ve been released, yes” when asked if Tennessee had cut him. He started nine games for the Titans last season and went 217 of 350 for 2,454 yards with 14 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. The 31-year-old Fitzpatrick has thrown for 16,790 yards, 106 touchdowns and 93 interceptions in 85 career games.
The Titans also agreed to a multiyear deal with linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who spent the last six years with the Denver Broncos. During the 2012 season, Woodyard was the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions.
Tennessee also agreed to a multiyear deal with tackle Michael Oher, who spent his first five seasons with the Ravens.
—Minnesota re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson, who bounced back from an injury-plagued first season with the team in 2012 with a solid season. He caught 48 passes for a career-high 726 yards in 2013.
—Linebacker Jameel McClain joined the Giants. He started 55 games for Baltimore and won a Super Bowl ring.
—Center Evan Dietrich-Smith agreed to a contract with Tampa Bay. Dietrich-Smith spent the past three seasons with the Packers.
—San Francisco signed cornerback Chris Cook to a one-year deal. Cook spent his four NFL seasons with Minnesota.
—New Orleans re-signed linebacker and special teams player Ramon Humber to a one-year contract.
—Carolina added a player when it signed tight end Mike McNeill from the St. Louis Rams to a two-year contract. McNeill mostly is a blocking tight end.
—Pittsburgh addressed depth issues along the defensive line, signing Cam Thomas to a two-year deal. The 27-year-old Thomas started a career-high 10 games for San Diego in 2013, finishing with 30 tackles and an interception.
—Kansas City signed former Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker to a three-year contract and announced the signing of linebacker Frank Zombo, who agreed to terms earlier in the week. Zombo appeared in 16 games for Kansas City last season.
—Free agent linebacker Will Herring isn’t joining the Cowboys after all. The team reported the signing on its website Thursday, but said Friday the deal was off in “a mutual parting of the ways that had to do with the language of the contract.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, N.C. contributed to this report.