Steve Smith is a legend. With Cam Newton under center, he has reignited the spark that made him such a great player. It will take a while to replace such a great talent, and that is why the Carolina Panthers should worry.
Charlotte needs two things for this football team. That is, an impact wide receiver and a defense.
While the greater need here is defense, the Panthers should be more concerned with finding Smith's replacement. The bright light of this Carolina offense is Newton's ability to connect with Steve Smith for big yardage. With him out of the picture in roughly three of four years, Carolina needs all the time it can get to mold another in his image.
If they rely too heavily on bandaging the defense, the light in their offense will start to flicker. Cam Newton can only run the ball for so long before he is figured out and shut down. What's more, rushing the ball is very dangerous for a quarterback and could possibly injure Carolina's star player.
With Thomas Davis and Jon Beason returning next season, their best option is to pick up a big-name receiver in the upcoming draft—such as Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery—and put a band-aid on the defense.
We have already seen big players on this defense, including Charles Johnson and Chris Gamble. What we have yet to see is a major second receiver show up. Brandon LaFell and Legedu Naanee have shone periodically, but neither seem to be consistently efficient.
Many people say that "defense wins championships," but the NFL is drifting towards a league designed primarily behind the quarterback. High-powered offenses are now a requirement to take a team through the playoffs. Carolina might not be Super Bowl ready right now or even next season, but giving Cam Newton a receiver now will help his growth and development.
Focus on building your star player now, Carolina. Take a major receiver early, then slowly rebuild the defense in case the offense slips. Cam Newton can handle most defenses for the next few years, but not without another Steve Smith.