The Washington Redskins can use a go-to receiver. In Carolina, that label belongs to Steve Smith. At 33, he's no spring chicken, but with the trade deadline extended to Thursday, there's an outside chance that Smith could face the 1-6 Panthers in Washington on Sunday, instead of playing for them.
It may seem far-fetched for Carolina to trade its star pass catcher to the team it's about to face, but there's no rule against it. In fact, the timing couldn't be better.
With the season slowly slipping away, 3-5 Washington can't wait any longer for injured free-agent acquisition, Pierre Garcon. Garcon was penciled in as the Redskins' No. 1 receiver until a Week 1 foot injury turned into a nagging one.
Meanwhile, it's no secret that Smith is disenchanted in Carolina despite signing a three-year contract extension in April.
So, let's take a closer look at Smith's growing skepticism and why Washington may be his best way out.
Back in Week 3, Smith ripped into Cam Newton, when the second-year quarterback sulked during and after a 36-7 loss to the New York Giants. Two weeks ago, the 5'8" wideout called Carolina's offense "lethargic." And last Sunday (after losing a 23-22 heartbreaker in Chicago), Smith added fuel to his fire when he called the Panthers' play-calling "tiresome" and "monotonous."
According to AP writer Andrew Seligman, Smith is especially upset with the unit's poor play and lack of execution. But he is also fed up with the direction of Carolina's organization since the recent firing of general manager Marty Hurney.
"It's getting old," said Smith, via Seligman and the Charlotte Observer. "A few guys in here are perturbed and (ticked), but we're beyond heartbreak. There is a tradition growing here and I'm not sure which way this tradition is going."
Change of Scenery
If the Redskins are smart, they'll do their best to convince the Panthers that a deal would be good for both teams. And if Smith is fortunate, he can help build a tradition that starts with first-year phenom Robert Griffin III.
In contrast to Newton, Griffin has been a consummate professional and the opposite of a sore loser. That type of personality would be a welcome relief to Smith, who showed last year that he can excel with a rookie signal caller. In Newton's inaugural season, Steve stunned many football experts with 79 catches for 1,394 yards in his 11th season. He also scored seven touchdowns.
So, how could Smith shuffle into Washington?
It would likely take multiple draft picks because of the interest of other suitors.
Rumors are swirling that Carolina has options. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer (via Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk), multiple teams have inquired with the Panthers about Smith's services. Front-office phones have also been ringing off the hook for running back DeAngelo Williams, who the Panthers have fallen out of love with.
Williams is as good as gone with the recent ascension of Jonathan Stewart to the lead back role. And trade denials for Smith by the Panthers should not be misinterpreted because Steve can be had if the price is right.
Typically, teams give up higher picks at this time of year than they do before or after the draft. So, if the Redskins are in the game, don't be surprised if the Panthers ask for Washington's second-round pick next year or a combination of choices over the next couple of drafts.
That may sound like a lot for a veteran wideout, but it would not be unprecedented. In 2008, the Detroit Lions dealt Roy Williams to Dallas for the Cowboys' first, third and sixth-round selections in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Cowboys also received a seventh-round pick from the Lions in the 2010 draft.
Williams was 26 at the time and fizzled out in Dallas, so it may take less to snare Smith. Also, if Washington thinks he still has fuel in the tank, Steve could excel opposite Garcon, when he returns from injury.
Washington's current receiving corps has talent, but much of it is raw and Smith would bring a "nasty streak" that has been lacking in DC for years.
Price is Right
Smith's contract restructuring in April gives the Redskins a chance to acquire him at a reasonable cost. According to Mike Florio of NBC's ProFootballTalk, Smith already received a $10 million signing bonus from the Panthers and his base salary is a mere $1 million in 2012. Next season, Smith is due a fully-guaranteed base of $3.75 million, but that would be pocket change for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Perhaps Washington can even swap Santana Moss in the deal. Moss is the same age as Smith, but he has been far too expensive in a diminished role. According to TheHogs.Net, Moss' current salary is $2.65 million with a total cap hit of over $4.3 million. And the longer Moss stays, the worse it gets. Next year, Santana's cap hit will skyrocket two million more to $6.3 million.
Timing is Right
If the Panthers agreed to deal Smith, it would be almost impossible for the five-time Pro Bowler to suit up for the Redskins on Sunday. He would need at least a week to familiarize himself with Kyle Shanahan's system, and the Panthers would have two days to tweak their offensive signals, in case Smith has secrets to tell.
The good news for the Redskins is that the Panthers have had two extra days to consider their options. And with Hurricane Sandy out of the way, DC airports will be back in business, to welcome Mr. Smith to Washington (should a trade occur).
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage