Did the Carolina Panthers give up on Rodney Smith too soon?

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Rodney Smith
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Rodney Smith /

Undrafted free-agent running back Rodney Smith was released by the Carolina Panthers, but did they give up on him too soon?

The Carolina Panthers brought their roster down to 80 well ahead of the August 16 deadline. This is despite new head coach Matt Rhule’s claims to the contrary last week.

This is far from an ideal situation for the Carolina Panthers. They have already endured a turbulent offseason thanks to the current climate. And this has left expectations at an all-time low next season.

What comes next over the next few weeks will go a long way to determining just what sort of things we can expect from the Panthers in 2020. And there is a real chance that plans change as cases continue to surge across the country.

Difficult decisions have already been made by the coaching staff. And this has seen plenty of players denied a shot of making the 53-man roster ahead of time. One such prospect was running back Rodney Smith, who failed to hear his name called in the 2020 NFL Draft despite a glittering college career with Minnesota.

The Panthers’ decision to part ways with Smith has been met with derision by certain sections of the team’s fanbase on social media. Carolina does have plenty of other options available behind their All-Pro stud Christian McCaffrey. But there was real hope that the rookie could have brought something a little different to the set-up.

Rodney Smith was a victim of circumstance with the Carolina Panthers

This is all part of the NFL’s cutthroat business. And it is something that should even more prevalent in the coming weeks. Teams might decide to go with experienced figures with no preseason games, so this would leave players like Smith out of luck.

Every undrafted free-agent coming out this year is on a hiding to nothing. They have got no time to impress on the field. And it is unlikely they will be working with the starting unit at any period during training camp.

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This has left Smith on the outside looking in. But the back has enough likable traits to get another opportunity elsewhere.

He became Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher after recovering from a serious injury setback in 2018. And although the player will never blow anyone away with explosiveness, Smith is incredibly fluid and patient waiting for blocks to develop.

Carolina has Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, and Jordan Scarlett vying for touches behind McCaffrey. Just how much time they’ll get on the field when competitive action gets underway will ultimately come down to how much of the load new offensive coordinator Joe Brady wants their new face of the franchise to take on. But it appears unlikely No. 22 will get more than 400 combined touches once again.

Smith will rightfully feel hard done by. He amassed 4,127 rushing yards, 65 receptions, 521 receiving yards, and 29 touchdowns during his college career. And he was a reliable backfield threat to come through when it mattered most.

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Whether the Panthers gave up on Smith too soon is up for debate. He is a victim of circumstance regarding the unprecedented situation facing teams across the league. And this is the worst possible time for those looking to forge a professional career at the next level.

One would expect Smith to get an opportunity elsewhere. But this might have to wait until next spring.

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