In early February, Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith initiated contact with Tom Sorenson, a Charlotte Observer beat writer, wishing to discuss among other things, his desire for the Panthers to draft or acquire a receiver via free agency, who could complement his abilities and with whom he could complement his counterpart’s abilities on the field.
In yet another surprise call, Smith contacted WFNZ-AM’s Mac Attack on Monday morning. He stated on-air as well, his desire for the Panthers to acquire via free agency or next month’s draft, a wide receiver who can not only take the pressure off of him, but with whom he can work with while he helps the offense in other areas.
I’ve written a couple articles already, where I have stated Smith’s public desire of the Panthers to acquire a receiver in some way, to bolster the offense’s receiving corps, so the team might have two viable threats on opposite sides of the field.
Since those times, and since his original statement, Smith’s tune of what he wants the Panthers to look for in a player, and his outlook have changed a little bit.
On Monday, Smith said, “I would like a younger guy to come in and eventually take my spot. I don’t want to be a number one anymore; I don’t want to be a guy who can’t let go of something he’s going to have to let go of.”
Smith, who will turn 31 later this year, is entering the tenth year of his NFL career. In that span of time, he has made many accomplishments. To date, he leads the Panthers in receptions for the last six years, is a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has been named Co-NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and earned the NFL’s Receiving Triple-Crown in 2005 when he led the league with 103 receptions; 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Smith expressed his desire to contribute more as a slot receiver and allow the younger guys whom the Panthers will either draft or sign via free agency, to succeed in his starting position.
“Really I just want to start handing over the torch. I don’t want to be one of these guys that can’t let it go when it’s time to go. To be honest the next five years I want to enjoy playing. I really haven’t enjoyed playing because I’ve had goals, or because, I want this and that, and in the process I kind of forget that I’m playing out my dream. I just want to settle down and fade away — in a good way, not in a bad way. I want to feel like I’m part of something special to help Carolina be one of those dynasty teams. That is why I say I don’t want to complement someone else, I want to add to what they already have.”
So who might still be available in the free agent market, be it restricted or unrestricted? Smith was asked about his feelings of if the Panthers were to perhaps go after and acquire RFA receiver Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos. Jokingly, Smith responded, “If they want to bring Brandon Marshall in that means he’s going to be running all of the deep balls, so that’s good with me… I want to move around and I’m understanding the game more and more and I want to play more positions.”
Smith did communicate his concern with Panthers general manager Marty Hurney; while he is happy playing for the Panthers, also made it known that he is not looking for a new contract.
In summarizing, the Panthers do have a need to get experienced depth at the receiver position. Veteran receiver Muhsin Muhammad is a 37-year-old unrestricted free agent whom the Panthers have not expressed any interest in re-signing.
Aside from Smith’s proven experience and talent, the team has little-to-no experience at the receiver position. Dwayne Jarrett is a couple months from finding himself somewhere other than Carolina and for the most part has been labeled a bust.
Behind Jarrett are two inexperienced receivers in Kenny Moore and Charly Martin. Unless any or all three of these receivers are going to step up in a big way, then Carolina needs to get busy finding a player to take over the spot Smitty wishes to vacate.