Do the Carolina Panthers Have a Solution for the Post-Steve Smith Era?

Ryan KennedyAnalyst IIMay 31, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Steve Smith has asked to be traded out of Carolina. He wants to end his career with a contender and after drafting a second quarterback in as many years, a championship does not appear to be on the near horizon for the Panthers.

Rumors have Smith headed out to the West Coast to San Diego or Oakland so that he can finish his career back home.

If Smith truly does leave, this takes away the only true receiving threat that the Panthers have developed in the past 10 years.

Since drafting Smith, the Panthers were lucky enough for a period to employ Mushin Muhammed, but just to take a look at the talent that has come through the Carolinas, here's a peak at the players the Panthers have drafted and some key free agents during Smith's tenure:

Walter Young, Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarret, Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards, Devin Thomas, Kevin Dyson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ricky Proehl.

To be fair, LaFell, Edwards and Gettis have been with the team for only one season and LaFell and Gettis showed promise even with a faltering quarterback situation.

The problem with this strategy is the Panthers have been overpaying for has-beens like Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Dyson or using their second-round draft picks ineffectively on USC wide receivers.

With a new regime in Carolina, the Panthers need to ensure that if indeed last season was Steve Smith's last with the Panthers that they have a plan in place to ensure that Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen has someone to throw the ball to.

The NFL is a pass-first league now. Newton, who figures to take mold in the shape of Michael Vick, has a strong arm and big playmaking ability. Without a good pair of wide receivers teams will be able to put eight in the box and watch Newton try to struggle out of those situations.

The Panthers have a quality line when healthy and have proven to be one of the most dynamic rushing teams in the league even when forced to use backups such as Mike Goodson. With the addition of a playmaking quarterback the final piece to having an explosive offense is a set of talented wide receivers.

If Smith really does leave, the Panthers can rely on Gettis or LaFell to be one of the starters but not both. Armanti Edwards has not shown that he has been able to make the transition from quarterback from wide receiver but with a year under his belt may be able to play the slot.

This leaves one of the starting positions open.

As stated above, the San Diego Chargers are looked to be a likely destination for the disgruntled Smith. The Chargers have their own disgruntled player in Vincent Jackson who would surely bring some explosiveness and experience to the receiving unit. But other options should included Braylon Edwards, Mike Sims-Walker and James Jones.

The Jets will likely focus on bringing back Santonio Holmes as a priority over Edwards since Edwards is a bit older and has had a history of the drops.

The Jaguars receiving situation should make them jealous of the Panthers. Sims-Walker is an excellent option as a number two receiver if he is healthy. James Jones will not be let go by the Packers who should do everything they can to keep him to be Donald Driver's replacement.

The Panther's have some in house talent and have options if they choose to explore them outside of the confides of Bank of America Stadium, but one thing is for sure, if Steve Smith lined up for the last time as a Carolina Panther this last season his presence will surely be missed.