Ihmir Smith-Marsette outlined his desire to remain with the Carolina Panthers when speaking to FanSided on Radio Row in Las Vegas.
There were very few bright spots on the Carolina Panthers in 2023. The late emergence of Ihmir Smith-Marsette was among them. This also came at the perfect time for the explosive wide receiver heading into free agency.
Smith-Marsette was a roster-cut trade from the Kansas City Chiefs. It cost nothing more than a seventh-round pick swap to get the deal done. After taking time to integrate himself and finding life difficult to generate targets under head coach Frank Reich, there were signs of life down the stretch that could potentially warrant another look.
That is for the new power trio of Dan Morgan, Dave Canales, and Brandt Tilis to decide. Smith-Marsette has the physical tools needed to be a dynamic, versatile option in the right scheme and with a full offseason with the franchise. His prowess in the kick return game is another positive working in the player's favor.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette wants another Carolina Panthers deal
Free agency is always an uncertain time for players like Smith-Marsette, although he is a restricted free agent right now. This is a deep class of wide receivers emerging from the college ranks. The veteran pool is also rich, although this will likely shrink once contract extensions and franchise tags become public knowledge.
When probed about his future in Carolina by FanSided's team at Radio Row in Las Vegas ahead of this weekend's Super Bowl, Smith-Marsette opened up about his first Panthers season and what the future might hold. It didn't go as most hoped, but the wideout expressed a desire to stick around and work alongside Canales.
"I definitely believe we're close. We've got the talent to go and put something together. It's gonna take time and everybody coming together as a collective and not take anything this year. We gotta fight and battle for each other, for your coach, going out there and proving you have the right to play ball. I want my role to expand. I wanna go out and prove week in and week out I can be one of the best players in the league. Every time I've gotten the opportunity, I've shown I belong. I've never shied from the moment. "- Ihmir Smith-Marsette via FanSided
This is another offseason of great change for the Panthers. The roster is going to look completely different by the time organized team activities begin once again. Keeping some sort of continuity by retaining progressive players such as Smith-Marsette could be worth its weight in gold - especially when it comes to quarterback Bryce Young's development.
Of course, the money has to work for all parties. This wouldn't be anything more than a one-year, prove-it deal. If Smith-Marsette takes it and thrives under Canales' direction, the Panthers would be wise to offer the do-it-all weapon a longer-term commitment.
If all parties go their separate ways, Smith-Marsette has enough talent to get another opportunity elsewhere. It would make things more difficult - establishing yourself in a different environment is never easy - but there is a genuine purpose in his mindset that the best is yet to come.
This is something that shouldn't go unnoticed by Carolina's new regime as part of their ambitious plans to turn the Panthers from national obscurity into the limelight.