According to ESPN.com's David Newton, the Carolina Panthers released 13-year veteran wide receiver Steve Smith on Thursday. This appears to be a salary-cap-related move, as Spotrac.com indicates that Smith's cap hit in 2014 was set to total $7 million.
The move left a sour taste in the veteran's mouth, as Rich Eisen of the NFL Network highlights with this tweet:
The @Panthers 2014 opponents: ATL, NO, TB, CHI, GB, DET, MIN, CLE, Ravens, PIT, CIN, SEA, PHI. Or Steve Smith's shopping list.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) March 13, 2014
Despite Smith's declined production in 2013—he recorded 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns—the veteran still has plenty left in the tank for a team willing to acquire his services.
Smith will turn 35 before the start of the 2014 season. With that said, he can still flourish in the right situation. After all, the wide receiver cannot be solely blamed for his 2013 production in Carolina.
During an interview on Sirius XM's Bleacher Report Radio (h/t ESPN.com), Smith explained that he is no longer a viable No. 1 option:
I am no longer a No. 1 wide receiver and I know that. And I've been knowing that, and I don't have a problem with that. I will adjust to whatever team and whatever role that I would have. The only thing is I would like to know what that role is and what the expectation is so I can exceed it.
However, that is exactly how he was used with the Panthers last season. Smith was targeted a team-high 109 times and didn't have a good enough supporting cast for pressure to be taken away from him.
It simply wasn't a good situation for a receiver in the twilight of his career.
Smith would be best-suited to an offense in which he can be a complementary wide receiver to another steadfast player at the position.
Other NFL teams have realized this, and just after Smith's release, Newton revealed that the Baltimore Ravens came knocking:
Ravens already have called to inquire about just released #Panthers WR Steve Smith, per league source.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) March 13, 2014
Baltimore's offense struggled in a big way in 2013. After Anquan Boldin departed to the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens were left with very few options. This situation ended with quarterback Joe Flacco putting up career-worst numbers.
The Ravens do have speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith in the fold, as well as some younger up-and-coming players. The team also retained tight end Dennis Pitta with a new contract.
The only thing that is missing here is a game-altering wide receiver to complement Smith.
Even at his advanced age, Smith still demands attention whenever he is on the field. This would allow the remainder of the Ravens' offensive weapons to find more opportunities to excel.
Baltimore is not the only team in this situation. The same can be said of the 49ers, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among many others.
Even though Smith may only have a couple of good years left, he would provide stability for any of these teams as their younger players develop. Smith would double as a tremendous mentor, given his extensive experience in the NFL.
There is still a good market out there for Smith, as CSNNE.com's Michael Giardi tweets that the New England Patriots have also reached out to the wide receiver:
Rest assured that he will produce at a high level wherever he winds up.