Steve Smith Era Officially Ends Thursday

After spending all 13 of his NFL seasons in Carolina, wide receiver Steve Smith’s time with the Panthers will officially end on Thursday. A league source said the team will release Smith after they were unable to find a trade partner.

The Panthers will designate Smith a post-June 1 cut, which will save them $1 million against the 2014 cap, but they will carry $4 million in dead money over to 2015. They will also owe him $5 million combined in guaranteed and deferred bonus money.

Smith, who jumped into the Top 25 of NFL career receiving yards and catches in 2013, holds team records for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and yards per reception. He ranks second in games played and games started for the Panthers.

The soon-to-be 35-year-old extended his franchise-best 106 games with a reception streak in the playoff loss to the 49ers, but his future became cloudy publicly for the first time when general manager Dave Gettleman was noncommittal about his status at the NFL Combine.

The situation came to a head Wednesday when his agent Derrick Fox told The Associated Press that Smith “is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that. I just don’t know when that transaction is going to take place.”

After Smith is released Thursday, he is likely to have at least a few teams interested. Reports have named Tampa Bay and Baltimore as his two likeliest landing spots.

On Thursday, he tweeted:

“I will always be a Carolina panther No contract can ever change that CLT is my home and will always be my home… I love you #panthernation.”

“But I still have a lil bit of football left in me….#agent89 Out. #iceupson.”

After the Panthers release Smith, their receiver roster will be made up of Brenton Bersin, Toney Clemons, Tavarres King, Marvin McNutt, Kealoha Pilares and R.J. Webb. Carolina is pursuing a number of options to fill receiving spots, including free agent Hakeem Nicks and re-signing Ted Ginn Jr.


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