If the Panthers are trying to decide what to do with Steve Smith, he wishes they’d have asked him first.
Smith declined to talk about his future at Jordan Gross’ retirement press conference today — saying the day should be devoted to Gross — but spoke with WBT-AM’s Keith Larson yesterday about recent remarks made by Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman, who said he was “evaluating” Smith’s role going forward.
“To be honest, I’m not really sure what to make of it,” Smith said. “That’s the first time I heard that being said. I wish I would have been afforded an opportunity to be given a heads up from our G.M. . . .
“The unfortunate part is, I had to hear it second hand. No one spoke to me face to face. It’s a little discouraging. I guess as they say it’s part of the business.”
The Panthers are walking a fine line with Smith, who has played his entire career in Charlotte and has indicated he plans to retire there. He has a $3 million roster bonus due this year, along with a $4 million base salary.
The 34-year-old wideout caught 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns last season. It’s well off his old pace, and they’d probably like to try to get his compensation back in line with his role.
“We’re going through the whole process,” Gettleman said at the Scouting Combine last week. “Steve’s had a great career. He really has. None of us are here forever. But that’s not to say, . . . he’s part of the evaluation process. That’s just the way it is.”
Maybe so, but leaving a prideful player like Smith hanging is an awkward way to be doing business, for a team with plenty of other issues to attend to.