Carolina Panthers 8 most franchise-changing offseason moments
Panthers franchise-changing moment No. 5: Cutting Steve Smith in 2014
After playing 13 seasons for the Carolina Panthers, Dave Gettleman and the team released Steve Smith without a proper send-off. This left Panther fans confused and angry. Smith did not have a fantastic 2013 season, but he was still a productive receiver and a leader in the locker room. Releasing him as they did was disrespectful and did not make much sense.
There was some speculation from fans and media that perhaps the Panthers saw Smith as too big of a personality to allow Cam Newton to step in and become the leader of the team. Not that Newton and Smith clashed, but perhaps they wanted the young star to develop into the lead guy without anyone else feeling challenged by Newton’s big personality and influence over his teammates.
Even if this pure speculation is true and the Panthers brass wanted Newton to transform into the leader that Smith was for many years, there were better ways of going about this hand-off of locker room captain from Smith to Newton. A private meeting between the two discussing the matter and asking Smith to take a backseat from his role in the locker room to allow Newton to take over would not have hurt.
However, the situation did not pan out that way. Instead, Gettleman cut the franchise icon. Understandably, Smith felt jaded and disrespected by this. He went on to have three solid seasons for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring. Including a dominating performance of revenge against the Panthers in 2014, where he had seven receptions, 139 yards, and two touchdowns.
This discourteous act against a leader of the Panthers for a decade was a sign of things to come in the future, as in 2020, Carolina did the same thing to Newton.
Even though the Panthers took a giant step forward by making the super bowl in 2015, there is no doubt that Smith would have seriously helped Carolina in his last few seasons if he was on the roster. And if he was still on the team, perhaps that 2015 season finishes with a ring rather than a whimper.