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Panthers prefer passing torches to balls with Steve Smith call

Jordan Gross AP

When the Panthers do the thing they seem hell-bent on doing today — getting rid of the best player in franchise history — it won’t be because of money.

And it won’t be because of declining skill.

That means it can only be personal.

Wide receiver Steve Smith, for all his gifts, has the ability to aggravate. Usually opponents, as seen by the way he gets under the skin of cornerbacks.

But teammates too, sometimes.

The reason the undersized wide receiver who came out of the third round has been able to hang on this long and pile up the kind of amazing stats he has (836 catches, 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns) is the way he worked. His practice habits are as intense as any player I’ve ever seen. I covered the guy every day for the first 10 seasons of his career, and of the 10 best catches I’ve seen him make, three or four of them were in games.

But he also has a tendency to remind people how hard he works, to try get them to raise their level. By extension, no one works as hard as he does.

Even if it’s true, and it usually is, people get sick of hearing it at a certain point. And eventually, they’re willing to ignore your positive contributions because they get tired of feeling inferior, or being told they are.

There’s a reason the Panthers had five captains to begin last year, and four of them were from the offense.

Center Ryan Kalil and quarterback Cam Newton got a C for their chest, new additions since now-retired tackle Jordan Gross and Smith had been captains for years.

Now, the way is clear for Newton in particular to take the lead.

Problem is, it’s going to be harder for him to lead much of a team in the absence of Smith.

From a cap perspective, it’s practically cheaper to keep Smith than to cut him. (ignoring the $3 million in guaranteed cash).

He’d have cost $7 million to keep on the cap this year, and they’ll carry $6 million worth of accelerations for him to be elsewhere (assuming a post-June 1 designation). That means they have to replace their best receiver with effectively $1 million worth of space. Check that, their only receiver. At a time when they needed more wideouts, they made the conscious choice to have none.

So now the way is clear for Newton to make the team his own.

How much of a team it is depends on General Manager Dave Gettleman’s ability to make something out of nothing.

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54 Responses to “Panthers prefer passing torches to balls with Steve Smith call”
  1. jetsfmleveryday says: Mar 11, 2014 6:50 AM

    Say what you want about the guy. He came to work… Have all of himself and was the epitome of hard work and dedication. I wish the jets would, just once, get themselves that kind of player.

  2. redeemerac says: Mar 11, 2014 6:55 AM

    Sorry, I’m not buying it, from the outside this move appears to make no sense. Gettleman screwed this whole thing up when he went public before ever talking to Smitty.
    I want to know what’s the plan once Smith is gone, who are the other options? SMH.

  3. h3min1230 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:00 AM

    So then all Cam Newton will have to throw to is Olsen and stone hands LaFell. Smart.

    /sarcasm

  4. faulkn22 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:02 AM

    Detroit on a one year deal.

  5. chuckwoodsen says: Mar 11, 2014 7:03 AM

    “And it won’t be because of declining skill.”??? Dude, what Steve Smith have been watching? His catches, yardage and yards per catch have all gone down each of the last three years.

  6. buchopeful says: Mar 11, 2014 7:04 AM

    I have a TON of respect (spelled correctly too) for Smitty, and he’s more than welcome to come to Tampa if he’s so inclined..

  7. ashutto20 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:08 AM

    I see what gettleman is trying to do EXCEPT…what established receiver is going to step into the #1 receiver slot and you don’t save any money to use for free agency…this has not been handled well at all

    First Hurney then Richardson during the lockout and now Gettleman

  8. hcat44 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:15 AM

    Wow without Steve Smith who is Cam going to throw to? Lafell? Ginn? Cam was barely able to get the ball to Smith this past season so it only seems like their passing game won’t improve much whether they pick up a free agent or Draft a rookie

  9. sctravis77 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:16 AM

    As a Panthers fan this is absolutely stupid. They havent even had a decent second WR in years. So they want to get rid of the ONLY decent WR on team??? STUPID!!!!!

  10. realitycheck21 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:16 AM

    The fact that the Panthers overpaid in a huge way for an average backfield, now haunts them. As such, the team is effectively handcuffed for the near term and unfortunately is going to drop quickly from the upper echelon of NFC teams. The team is going to struggle big time on offense with the existing backfield and an ineffective receiving corp without leadership. This cat has lost it’s growl.

  11. kaeptaincrunch says: Mar 11, 2014 7:17 AM

    So he’s getting cut because he tries to motivate
    his teammates to be better and work hard?

    Great logic, Carolina.

  12. heyguru1969 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:22 AM

    Welcome to Charlotte Hakeem Nicks. But can you stay healthier than the diminished Smitty over the last couple of years?

  13. footballfan12289 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:29 AM

    Urlacher wonders where the loyalty is..

  14. clbrwns says: Mar 11, 2014 7:35 AM

    This is the type of project Bill Belichick loves. And the rest of us tend to hate because he’ll make it work….

  15. Lev says: Mar 11, 2014 7:54 AM

    For a team that’s been pretty bad at drafting receivers in early rounds (Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarrett, etc.) the Cats are sure putting a lot of chips down in this draft.

    I hate the idea of cutting him, BUT I’d like to see Steve with a ring no matter what team is on the side of it.

    Thanks for the years either way Smitty!!

  16. nickinneohio says: Mar 11, 2014 7:57 AM

    We’ve seen this before. He’ll sign with the Patriots, be a good soldier under Belicheck, collect a ring, retire.

  17. pantherfan40 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:02 AM

    dont do it gettleman , its only going to hurt us , sit steve down and restructure him

  18. phuriousjorge says: Mar 11, 2014 8:05 AM

    Great producer, not likeable.

  19. qdog112 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:05 AM

    Smith should have been dealt 3 years ago, when his market value was good. It was clear that Steve deserved to be with a team that actually had a chance to win. At that time, the Panthers were a mess and his departure would have been palpable.

    Now, his status, both cap-wise and ability-wise, should make Steve the only untouchable player on the roster. He should retire a Panther. Since he is the “only” WR and since he doesn’t really effect the cap, he should STAY. There should be no debate.

    This attack on Smith is clearly a power grab by Gettleman, who has never had any before. (career guy passed over by the Giants) Smith’s teammates, nor coach Rivera can be happy or trust this guy.

  20. captainspangled says: Mar 11, 2014 8:07 AM

    What an idiotic move. Unbelievable.

    This is nothing more than Dave Gettleman trying to make a “this is my show now” statement and the old buffoon needs to be “evaluated” himself for it.

    Senile old man.

  21. jcurran77 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:08 AM

    “Panthers prefer passing torches to balls with Steve Smith call”

    What????

  22. btellington says: Mar 11, 2014 8:11 AM

    Time for Gettleman to act like the Panthers have the worst cap situation in the league again…

    Piss off the best O-Lineman in team history in year one, and in year two cut the best WR in team history. What will he do next year to top this?

  23. lowerprovidencewarriors says: Mar 11, 2014 8:16 AM

    Newton lacks intelligence. To put it otherwise, he is dumb.

  24. jiggybone says: Mar 11, 2014 8:23 AM

    So the Panther want to get rid of Steve Smith not because of this cap number but because of his captain status. That is the stupidest thing Ihave ever heard. Even at 34 Smitty is still the best receiver on the team. Also “Panthers prefer passing tourches to balls with Steve Smith call” WTF does that even mean?

  25. lionsmark09 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:29 AM

    Would not mind seeing him in Detroit. Him and Calvin…..then take a young kid in the draft for the slot.

  26. mljohns says: Mar 11, 2014 8:35 AM

    nickinneohio says: Mar 11, 2014 7:57 AM

    We’ve seen this before. He’ll sign with the Patriots, be a good soldier under Belicheck, collect a ring, retire.
    ________________

    Yup, you’re absolutely right. He’ll follow in the footsteps of Randy Moss and Wes Welker who went to New England, were good soldiers under Belichick and collected a ring…oh wait!

  27. csbanter says: Mar 11, 2014 8:46 AM

    So the Panthers want to cut Smith because he annoys people. Team legends get let go every year because of cap issues.

    Its the business of the NFL, so please don’t insult our intelligence.

  28. fleaman1381 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:49 AM

    I don’t really understand this move. With the exception of the title, this article pretty much coincides with what I’m thinking. It just doesn’t make sense to cut him. A trade? Maybe. But I don’t think they’ll get much out of a trade since it’s out there they’re going to cut him anyway. The only way I see that happening is if a team already reached out about a trade. They COULD get two decent receivers in the draft (one early and one late), but I personally don’t like the unknown. I’d rather keep Smith for his work ethic and the fact that you know what you’re getting even though he’s in his decline phase.

  29. pantherfan40 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:49 AM

    if we cut steve smith who is cam going to throw it to? himself?

  30. godofwine330 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:57 AM

    Does he rup people the wrong way because he works harder than them? I mean, Jerry Rice did it, and personally I’d love a hard worker bee like that. Now Carolina is primed to have no receivers? Is that what you are telling me? I see it as a bad idea. A bad, bad move, and if successful at pulling off this horrid move the NFC south will have yet another champion. In the 12 years since the NFC South division was shaped, they have not had zero repeat champions. The Panthers should thank the GM for making it 13 years this season.

  31. teek77 says: Mar 11, 2014 8:59 AM

    This is too much like a bad dream. Smith has always been the life blood of the Panthers…….the one who gave the fans something to get fired up about. Sure, he rubbed some folk the wrong way but sometime you need that to get things out of a rut. The Panthers should have let him go out on his own terms after all his contributions.

  32. imthaschmidt says: Mar 11, 2014 9:14 AM

    I could see him in Indy, next to Wayne and Hilton.

  33. teal379 says: Mar 11, 2014 9:22 AM

    Everyone’s time comes to an end and while Cam might not have great receivers other than Smith at this point, good QB’s make mediocre receivers better. Part of this is on Cam as well.

    Also – the idea Smith will simply trot up to New England, collect a ring and retire – no one’s done that in a long time. Check the calendar as to the last time the Pats won a SB.

  34. chad504boy says: Mar 11, 2014 9:33 AM

    So Cam Newton can’t take Steve’s Smith heat…. got it.

  35. blahblahblah1313 says: Mar 11, 2014 9:37 AM

    If your best WR is Steve Smith you are screwed whatever happens. Guy has not been any good for years. Maybe he works hard, but he still isn’t any good. Check the stats. What is he about 60-70 catches/600-800 yds/ 4-5 TDs a year. THATS a # 1 WR? Moch hand wringing about nothing. If he’s your best you ain’t got jack…

  36. realdealsteel says: Mar 11, 2014 9:49 AM

    Looks like a guy who the Patriots, Seahawks and Chargers could definitely use.

    Panthers won’t be repeating their division title with no semblance of a real passing game. Defense can only stay on the field so long before it gets gassed.

  37. chargersdiehard says: Mar 11, 2014 10:04 AM

    He’s coming to the Chargers. I’m telling you!

  38. ncheelsboysfan says: Mar 11, 2014 10:11 AM

    I think this was between Gettleman and Steve Smith and the Panthers lose. I am shocked how little cap savings. And that stuff abt making room for CAMS leadership by moving Smith out is fluff!

    Wish Dallas had room for him. But we got bigger needs.

    My Dad pulls for the Panthers so I dont pull against them except if they play MY COWBOYS …BUT would be funny if he ends up with one of their division rivals and makes them pay!

  39. realdeal406 says: Mar 11, 2014 10:27 AM

    Let me get this right we are paying olsen, the guy that catch the ball and hit the dirt 7.8 million dollars this year and cut smitty. I hate to be this go when we get the 1st pick in the draft next year. In 13 years this team has not found but one other WR in the draft that was any good but now they going to find a whole lot of them in one year. And Steve yards has went down because he hasn’t had a qb that can get him the ball. Cam ball to smith is usually to high. More times the not.

  40. virgiltab says: Mar 11, 2014 10:28 AM

    I love armchair GM’s. lol. There are 52 other guys on the team and losing one(which happens all the time) is not going to put us into a tailspin. I’m sure the front office has a plan in place and isn’t making a decision without thoroughly thinking the possibilities through. This team’s previous front office had a bad tendabcy to hold players too long. And some fans of the team seem to have too much of an emotional connection to a player. I think some people can’t see the forest for the trees and remember, Gettlemen has been apart of 8 superbowl teams and 3 superbowl winning teams. Give the guy his respect. He’s got more rings than anyone on this team!!

  41. bradyisbest says: Mar 11, 2014 10:32 AM

    I don’t understand the fuss. as newton has said on many occasion,he is “superman”!and as we all know superman would have no problem throwing to himself!

  42. gmfw7 says: Mar 11, 2014 10:32 AM

    this makes no sense. by cutting him, you are basically forcing yourself to take a WR in round 1, and probably two more through the draft. drafting for need really is never a good idea, especially if you end up taking a guy like lee in the first round who’s just another slow USC WR (dwanye jarret) except he has nowhere near the size of jarret. on top of the fact it saves you no cap space to make a splash in FA for a guy like decker. hakeem nicks has great hands but he’s slow and hurt all the time. i’m not a panthers fan, but this makes no sense to me. they should cut the whole backfield and go draft a rb in the middle rounds who can produce the way other teams do every year. if i was cam i would go to management or the owner and make sure that smith stayed with the team.

  43. jgedgar70 says: Mar 11, 2014 10:33 AM

    This makes absolutely no sense.

    We have an offensive line held together with duct tape and prayers. We have a defensive backfield that held up well last year, but sorely lacks depth. We have a #1 WR that is coming off 2 straight off years, and no other WRs under contract.

    So let’s keep 2 of the worst O-linemen (Byron Bell, Garry Williams) and can the WR – not because he’s worthless on the field, but because some hyper-sensitive teammates had their feelings hurt by him.

    This is so stupid it boggles the mind.

  44. realdeal406 says: Mar 11, 2014 10:52 AM

    Some where we pissed off the Giants and the sent us this guy to kill this team. Will take chase and give them beason and still pay beason 4 million this year? We picked up Nixon and didn’t use him, so that probably was a move to help the gaints out on cap last year. Watch smith goes there and next year they pick up luke

  45. td30 says: Mar 11, 2014 10:52 AM

    I didn’t know you guys hired Dr Seuss to write your column titles

  46. theclink12 says: Mar 11, 2014 11:22 AM

    I am not a Carolina but have always liked Steve Smith. I just think the NFL is a better place with him in it.

    Still has the best quote ever: “Ice up, son”

    I think Carolina will find out how important he really is to them. As they always say….”you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.”

  47. corkspop says: Mar 11, 2014 11:30 AM

    This is a good year to be in the market for a WR, either in the draft or free agency. But I fear a P-O’d Steve Smith in another uniform…… say Tampa?

  48. realfootballfan says: Mar 11, 2014 11:33 AM

    This one is the dumbest move so far in the free agency period.

  49. chriscravensports says: Mar 11, 2014 11:37 AM

    Apparently everyone doesn’t realize that LaFell, Hixon, and Ginn are free agents asd well. The only WR’s left on this team are the guys on the practice squad. I think McNutt played in 1 game late in the season at Atlanta, but that is it! There is going to be a COMPLETE overhaul of the WR corp. In some regards that is a good thing, butI don’t see how cutting SS can be a positive.

  50. fwippel says: Mar 11, 2014 11:48 AM

    I do not understand this move by the Panthers, at all.

    Smith may be a pain in the posterior, but it is hard to believe that he’s a negative influence on this team, at least to the extent that it leads to his release.

    The only way the Panthers cover their tails on this one is to replace him with someone of comparable talent. Good luck with that.

  51. ctgiant says: Mar 11, 2014 12:08 PM

    Dave Gettlemen is very close to Jerry Reese, does this mean anything?
    Treating Smith this way is very direspectful, and Smith better not sign with some team in there conference, because this guy can kill you, he’s done it several times to my giants!
    Dumb move, good luck with Nicks, and hope we re-sign Hixon, thanks!
    CT GIANT

  52. pongonfl says: Mar 11, 2014 12:11 PM

    The cowboys made this exact same mistake with TO and Romo,
    “Romo cant lead while this guy is here..”

    Turns out Romo just cant lead. So the team has had NO leadership since.

  53. granadafan says: Mar 11, 2014 12:16 PM

    Face reality. Smith is paid like a #1 receiver but has produced recently like a 2nd receiver.

  54. brettackerman9 says: Mar 11, 2014 7:02 PM

    Im a huge panthers fan and smith has been this franchise for so long but I can’t believe how ridiculous this article and everyone’s comments are! It’s all about money we aren’t cutting him because that would do nothing, we are trading him and then that dumps his salary and frees up way more cap space than we had before. I don’t want to see Smith go but think about it people we need a little more than a wr right now. We need someone who can protect Cams blindside so that he even has time to throw the ball!

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