- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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The eventual departure of receiver Steve Smith from the Carolina Panthers has been rumored for the past week. But according to this story by Steve Reed of the Associated Press, that speculation could soon become a reality.
Reed quotes Smith’s longtime agent, Derrick Fox, stating that whether through trade or outright release, Smith will not be with the Panthers in 2014.
“[Steve] is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that,” Fox told the Associated Press. “I just don’t know when that transaction is going to take place.”
Smith’s contract runs through 2016. Carolina will have to pay the Utah product $3 million whether he’s with the team or not for the upcoming season.
Despite the Panthers moving on from Smith, the 13-year, NFL veteran can still play, and would be a good fit for a San Diego offense looking to add more playmakers. Smith was one of Cam Newton's favorite targets, finishing with 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
At 5-9 and 185 pounds, Smith still has enough speed to get deep, the ability to make plays after the catch and is one of the most competitive players in the league. That passion should fit in well with the ultra-competitive Philip Rivers.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy is very familiar with Smith, having coached him for eight seasons while serving as quarterbacks coach, receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Carolina. So McCoy will know how to use Smith’s skill set in new offensive coordinator Frank Reich's version of San Diego's offense.
Smith, who turns 35 in May, also would pair with Eddie Royal to give San Diego a nice rotation at slot receiver, along with a veteran presence in the receiving room to balance against young receivers like Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown. Smith, a Los Angeles native, also could return to his West Coast roots.
Smith would have a chance to still make a run at a Super Bowl with San Diego. And with Carolina basically paying Smith $3 million to play for someone else in 2014, Smith could be an inexpensive option to help bolster the team’s receiving group.