Updates from Thursday, Mar. 13
Bill Voth of the SportsXchange reports when Steve Smith is expected to part ways with Steve Smith:
NEWS: Unable to find a trade partner, the #Panthers will release WR Steve Smith today, officially ending his 13-year career w/the club.— Bill Voth (@billvoth) March 13, 2014
Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer quickly confirmed Voth's report:
Updates from Wednesday, Mar. 12
Steve Reed of The Associated Press has the latest on Steve Smith's status with the Panthers:
Smith's longtime representative Derrick Fox told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Smith "is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that. I just don't know when that transaction is going to take place."
Fox said the Panthers have been trying to trade Smith, but expects he will ultimately be released.
Smith later commented on the news via his Twitter account:
God has a plan... sometimes it just hurts find out what it is pic.twitter.com/r8mCVcFONR— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 12, 2014
I will always be a Carolina panther No contract can ever change that CLT is my home and will always be my home... I love you #panthernation— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 12, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 11
Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun has the latest on the market for Steve Smith:
The Ravens are expected to emerge as a strong potential landing spot for Carolina Panthers veteran wide receiver Steve Smith should he be released today, according to league sources.
Smith is expected to be cut, barring an unexpected trade developing in the next few hours for the five-time Pro Bowl selection, according to a source.
Besides the Ravens, a source said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that would make a lot of sense for Smith as he would be able to compete against the Panthers twice per year in the NFC South division.
Meanwhile, fans have taken to creating shirts to keep Smith with the Panthers, which was brought to the star player's attention:
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is reporting that Smith will not be released today by the Panthers:
#Panthers WR Steve Smith is not being released today, per source.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
Steve Smith's days with the Carolina Panthers appear to be numbered.
According to sources close to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the 13-year veteran, who has played every one of his NFL snaps in Carolina and currently resides as the franchise's all-time leading receiver, is being put on the trade block:
The #Panthers are attempting to trade WR Steve Smith, per source. Given his $7M cap number and age (34), seems unlikely.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 10, 2014
As Rapoport mentions, finding a trade partner may prove to be difficult. According to Spotrac.com, the veteran has a base salary of $11 million and a cap hit of $17 million over the next two seasons combined, along with a player option in 2016 worth $9 million.
In the meantime, the Panthers have pulled Smith's jersey from the team store. Smith commented on that news to Josina Anderson of ESPN:
Panthers WR Steve Smith to me via text: "I just found out that (the) team store stop selling my jersey online." (Cont.)— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 10, 2014
When I asked Panthers WR Steve Smith what's going on with his jersey on the team's online store he text, "your guess is as good as mine."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 10, 2014
ESPN's David Newton quickly clarified why the jerseys were missing from the official store:
I am told that absence of Steve Smith's jersey from #Panthers official store is about him adding Sr. to it. Nothing more.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) March 10, 2014
A 34-year-old coming off one of the least productive seasons of his career isn't exactly valuable trade bait. In 2013, he pulled in 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. The 11.6 yards-per-reception average was the lowest mark of his career (not counting 2004, when he played just one game), and he scored just one touchdown after Week 6.
Not only does it make little sense for another team to give up assets for that combination of production and salary, but Grantland's Bill Barnwell explains why it's questionable from the Panthers' point of view as well:
Panthers would lose $2 million of cap space by trading Smith, which makes the idea of a deal weird. http://t.co/aPgj71hqj4— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) March 10, 2014
With the need to re-sign superstars like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly in the next couple of years, the Panthers will seek to save as much money as possible elsewhere.
Of course, on the other side of things, while Smith's numbers were down in 2013, he still brings plenty of value to the Panthers organization. He is an ultimate fan favorite, a vocal leader, a strong, physical blocker in the run game and still a capable receiver for a team with little depth at the position.
The Associated Press' Steve Reed called Smith one of Carolina's most indispensable players:
Personally, I'm really confused on the WR Steve Smith situation. In my opinion he's the one player Panthers can't afford to lose.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) March 7, 2014
Still, Smith, despite what he has meant to this franchise, will understand if Dave Gettleman and co. decide to move in another direction, as he told ESPN's Josina Anderson (via ESPN's David Newton):
It’s a business and I understand that, and ultimately decisions aren’t up to me. I’m a player. At the end of the day, if a team decides to move on, I have to either accept that or I go sit at home and cry about it. So we’ll see.
It's a little surprising to see it come to this, as Smith is one of the greatest players in franchise history and the team is already thin at wideout. But as he himself said, "It's a business," and the underlying factors may necessitate a move that fans probably won't enjoy.
A trade is more unlikely than an outright cut, which would presumably follow if the Panthers can't strike a deal. Either way, though, it's clear this team is in need of finding some new offensive weapons for Newton in the future.