Usually one of the last things a team does before cutting a guy they plan to cut anyway is give everyone one last chance.
That appears to be the case with the Panthers, as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says they’re attempting to trade the veteran wide receiver. With a $7 million cap hit, that seems unlikely.
It’s been clear that new General Manager Dave Gettleman wasn’t comfortable with Smith at his current price, and Smith wasn’t comfortable with the way it was handled.
But this wasn’t solely about money, as the Panthers are shifting the leadership of the team away from the old guard (Smith and retired tackle Jordan Gross) and onto quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly.
It’s a risky play for a team that entered today with one proven wide receiver on the roster, and now goes into free agency with the possibility of none, and little in the way of cap room to replace him.
Smith was obviously in decline in terms of impact on the field, but as the franchise’s best player, it’s still a clumsy handling for what appear to be his final days with the team that drafted him in 2001.