No sooner than the Carolina Panthers released wide receiver Steve Smith, the face of their franchise for so long, than the Baltimore Ravens reportedly emerged as his most likely landing spot.
“Steve Smith has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,” General Manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement released by the team. “This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.”
Smith, who spent 13 seasons with the Panthers, had been on the trading block, with no takers stepping forward. He ranks 25th all-time in the NFL with 836 catches and 19th all-time with 12,197 receiving yards.
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— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 12, 2014
A little later, he seemed to have moved on:
Now on WFNZ, Steve Smith on possibly playing vs #Panthers: “Put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere.”— Bill Voth (@billvoth) March 13, 2014
Steve Smith is going to sign 16 one-week contracts with whoever is playing against the Panthers.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 13, 2014
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Ravens, who re-signed Jacoby Jones on Thursday, were the front-runner for Smith, who will turn 35 in May. Smith’s performance has fallen off the last two seasons and Hakeem Nicks, according to the Charlotte Observer, is the Panthers’ top free-agent target.