"You know what, it's mind blowing,'' safety Roman Harper said on Tuesday after officially signing his two-year deal worth $4.5 million. "When you think of the Carolina Panthers, you think of that guy.''
Smith, the team's all-time leading receiver, was released last Thursday after 13 years with Carolina. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, the day before Harper agreed to terms with Carolina.
"I would love to play with that guy because I know how much he competes, I know how great of a player he is,'' Harper said. "We have mutual respect of each other. We've had our run-ins, but when you play twice a year you're going to have those.
"He will be missed around here I'm sure.''
Carolina fans will remember Harper for his late hit on Smith after a touchdown in a 2011 game. Harper was fined $15,000, and at the time said it was worth it.
Now Harper has a chance to be remembered for more at Carolina. The 31-year-old expects to play strong safety, which makes sense with free safety Charles Godfrey coming off an Achilles injury.
A healthy Godfrey makes the loss of Mike Mitchell in free agency sting a bit less.
Harper will wear No. 41, the number starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn wore before he was lost to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
Harper won't help replace Smith or any of the team's top four receivers from last season that are now gone. But he could be a nice addition to a defense ranked second in the NFL a year ago.
His 17 sacks since 2006 are more than any other defensive back in the NFL during that time frame.
"They don't need a lot of work,'' Harper said of the defense. "They don't need a lot of help. I'm just here to add to them.''