The way Gettleman has handled Steve Smith’s future with the team has been insulting, to say the least. Steve Smith is the greatest Panther to ever wear a uniform and even at age 35 he still has some game left in his tank. The Panthers definitely need an upgrade at receiver and I expect them to find Smith’s replacement in the draft this year. Steve is already under contract and letting him go would do more harm than good.
Steve can mentor the new receiver and show them how to work hard and excel at the next level. Plus bringing in a new guy and resigning Ted Ginn (if Gettleman chooses to do so) would allow Steve Smith to move to the slot. Rivera has wanted to do that since he arrived in Charlotte, but the lack of another go-to-receiver has put this plan on hold. Allowing Smith to operate in the slot would allow him to become a top receiver again. Smith still has all of the skills and ability to be an excellent slot receiver. Smitty is just as good of a receiver as Wes Welker or Julian Edelman and these guys torched defenses from the slot. Steve Smith in the slot would force defenses to send more coverage to the middle of the field and wherever Smith operated. As a result the sideline and deep routes would be open for Ted Ginn and whoever the Panthers select as a new receiver. This year’s deep draft class will ensure the Panthers can find a new receiver to contribute in his first season. By the time Smith retired in 2016, he will have instilled plenty of knowledge into the new guy and set him up for future success.
With Gross’s retirement, the Panthers have a huge void in terms of leadership. Jordan was often the voice the offense listened to throughout the season. Steve is ready to step in and be that guy. His fiery play and passion ignite the team. He has shown maturity over his last 5-6 years as a Panther. Smith commands respect in that locker room and his extreme work ethic will be contagious. He would hold players accountable as he did last season when he called his players only meeting to chew the team out following a 1-3 start.
I understand this game is a business and you cannot allow your heart and loyalties to get in the way of success. That being said, letting Steve Smith go is just bad for business. He is a fan favorite. Most fans will tell you Steve is their favorite Panther ever. Look at discussion forums around other articles concerning this subject, and you will see fans voicing disgust and contempt for the organization. Many people claim they will stop following the Panthers if they are to disrespect Steve like this. Releasing him would lower brand loyalty and turn a lot of new and long time fans off of the team. Gettleman has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason, but this should have been one of the easiest ones for him to make.