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NFL Free Agency 2014: Rumors Surrounding Stars Who Were Recently Released

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) walks off the field after the second half of a divisional playoff NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. The San Francisco 49ers won 23-10. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 13, 2014

If you took a look at the names of some of the players recently released in the NFL, it's startling to see how many of them were considered superstars just a few years ago. Many of them may actually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame down the road.

Nonetheless, age and money were the prevailing factors in almost every case. Just because the veterans were released this week doesn't mean they will be out of work long.

The rumor mill has already started to churn for a few of them. Here's a look at three of the more well-known players who were released and the early rumors about their potential landing spots.

 

Steve Smith

Dave Martin/Associated Press

The Carolina Panthers' all-time leading receiver was released by the team on Thursday. Smith will be 35 years old in May, and injuries limited him to his first sub 1,000-yard receiving season since 2010 last season.

The Panthers needed to get younger at the position and releasing Smith was the right thing to do.

Don't expect Smith to be jobless for long, though. The Charlotte Observer's Joe Person says there are already four potential landing spots materializing for Smith.

Known as a fierce competitor, Smith used speed, quickness, strength and desire to overcome his size limitations. Standing only 5'9", he is arguably the best small receiver of the last 20 years.

Smith's feisty attitude hasn't always been ideal, but upon the receiver's exit, head coach Ron Rivera was nothing but complimentary. Per David Newton of ESPN.com, Rivera said:

"I have coached against him and have had the benefit of having him on the Panthers. He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame-worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community. I wish him nothing but the best"

The question is: what does Smith's best look like these days?

If he has lost a step, it will be very difficult for him to be as effective as he once was. There's also the question of whether he can remain healthy. 

If he can, one of the teams mentioned in Person's tweet may get a steal.

 

Miles Austin

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22:  Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After two straight Pro Bowl seasons in 2009 and 2010, the emergence of Dez Bryant in 2011 seemed to relegate Austin to secondary status in the Dallas Cowboys offense.

He hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since, though injuries have played a role as well. Austin has missed 11 games over the last three seasons. The Cowboys released the 29-year-old veteran on Thursday, but he could be going to familiar territory.

Per a source, Art Stapleton of The New Jersey Record says Austin—a New Jersey native—has interest in playing for one of the New York teams.

Both the New York Jets and New York Giants need offensive weapons. Austin isn't exactly over the hill. He could still give a team a good three to four years, if he's healthy.

He should be one of the most sought after new free agents.

 

LaMarr Woodley

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) on the sidelines against the New York Giants during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers released LaMarr Woodley on March 10. He's already reportedly met with a few teams. Per Vic Tafur of The San Francisco Gate Chronicle, the Oakland Raiders may be making the most headway with the 29-year-old veteran.

Woodley has missed at least three games in each of the last three seasons. 

Still, he's young enough and experienced enough to represent an upgrade at outside linebacker for several teams. The Raiders could use a proven winner to help change the culture in the locker room.

Woodley has played in two Super Bowls and won one. Those accomplishments help to boost his value for a team.

We'll wait and see where he and other notable free agents land in the coming days.

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