Steve Smith is done as a Panther.
Smith, the receiver who has been perhaps the best player in the two-decade history of the Carolina Panthers franchise, was officially released today. The Panthers announced the long-awaited move on Thursday morning.
“When I took this position I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way,” Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all. A decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it’s the right one. As I’ve stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long-term best interest of the Carolina Panthers. Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good, and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view.”
The absence of Smith creates a big void at wide receiver, as Smith has long been the No. 1 receiver in Carolina’s offense. (Carolina’s No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers last year, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, are both free agents.) He’ll be difficult to replace in the Panthers’ offense.
But the Panthers will have to replace him, and Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team. Although Smith isn’t the same explosive player at age 34 as he was a few years ago, he can still help some team’s passing game. He may be motivated to pick an NFC team, and to stick it to the Panthers for letting him go.