Updates from Friday, Mar. 14
Ravens insider Aaron Wilson reports that nothing is imminent between Smith and the Ravens:
Nothing imminent on Steve Smith as the Ravens continue to make their recruiting pitch to him— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 14, 2014
Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports has more info on Smith's plans for free agency:
Steve Smith still in Baltimore meeting with Ravens. No other visits planned yet, but they are expected to come soon.— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) March 14, 2014
The Carolina Panthers have officially released veteran wide receiver Steve Smith on Thursday after 13 seasons with the franchise, according to the team’s official Twitter account:
The #Panthers have released WR Steve Smith.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) March 13, 2014
Thursday night ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Smith planned on making a visit to the Ravens on Friday:
Here we go: Former Panthers WR Steve Smith is scheduled to fly tonight to Baltimore to spend Friday meeting with Ravens, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2014
Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer added:
As reported elsewhere, Steve Smith in Baltimore tonight meeting with Ravens. Planning to take other visits next week, per league source.— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 14, 2014
Smith spoke about being released by Carolina and his future with Bleacher Report Radio:
Smith was selected in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft by Carolina and totaled 836 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns (plus an immeasurable grit) during his time with the Panthers.
Carolina attempted to trade Smith, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, but when no viable trade options were discovered, the franchise released him and freed up salary-cap space.
#Panthers WR Steve Smith played 13 seasons for one team. He has 836 catches for 12,197 yards with 67 TDs. Now, they are trying to trade him.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 10, 2014
With one door closed for Smith, more options have opened up. According to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer, there are several possible landing spots for Smith now that he has hit the open market:
Potential landing spots for Steve Smith: Baltimore, San Diego, maybe Tampa Bay. And don't ever rule out the Patriots.— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 13, 2014
In a separate report from Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the team rumored to be pushing hardest for Smith right now is the Baltimore Ravens, and the organization isn't looking to waste time:
The Ravens will be in pursuit of Steve Smith quickly when he's released by the Panthers. Deal could materialize fast.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 13, 2014
At 34 years old, Smith proved he still has plenty left in the tank after last season. He racked up 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns despite the mediocre play of the entire pass offense led by Cam Newton and no other real weapons around him.
The Panthers finished the season ranked 29th in the NFL in terms of yards per game (190.2).
Smith has taken the entire situation in stride, telling ESPN's Josina Anderson, via David Newton of ESPN.com, about his feelings before he was released:
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.
There will always be players and fans that don’t like the way Smith plays his position, but everyone must respect the work he has put in during his career. His tenacity on the field is unwavering, and he kept plenty of bad teams together on the field and in the locker room during his stint with the Panthers.
Which landing spot is best for Steve Smith?
There will be several organizations that kick the tires on a veteran with as much skill as Smith, and he will inevitably land on his feet with a franchise that is both looking for a versatile playmaker and is able to pay him the money he wants.
Baltimore needs a legitimate complement on the other side of Torrey Smith to open space for Joe Flacco to make the deep throws, and adding Smith via free agency would be the ideal situation for all parties involved. With Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, Steve Smith and Jacoby Jones (whom the team re-signed Wednesday) to go along with tight end Dennis Pitta, Baltimore would have no shortage of receiving threats.
The Ravens never properly replaced the departed Anquan Boldin, and Smith would help continue to fill the void.
*Stats via NFL.com.