March 11, 2014
Steve Smith jokes he may be heading to the unemployment line
Steve Smith likes to joke around and have fun, and Twitter is a better place now that Agent 89 has joined it.
Maybe his best quip yet came Tuesday when he told a follower he may be heading toward the unemployment line.
In case you've been under a rock in Charlotte, the Panthers are reportedly trying to trade the longest-tenured Panther, and the team may release him if they can't find a trade partner.
Smith joked that the "Save Steve Smith" movement was a little much--that it's not like he's going away for good.
That led to the creator of the shirt, Brian Blackmore, to reach out to Smith and say the shirt was made out of support. Smith wrote back that he had to poke fun at the shirt but expressed his love for Panthers fans.
@iam3rian well sounds like it will be a race to unemployment line. For both of us.— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 11, 2014
We'll keep you all updated with any breaking news on Smith's future in Carolina.
March 10, 2014
Report: Panthers trying to trade Steve Smith
The Panthers appear to be on the verge of cutting Steve Smith, the leading receiver in franchise history and one of the team's most popular players.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Panthers are attempting to trade Smith -- a move often made by teams trying to get something for a player that intend to let go.
A Panthers spokesman would not confirm the report, saying there was "nothing new" to Smith's situation.
With Smith's $7 million cap hit and his declining numbers in 2013, the Panthers could have trouble obtaining anything of value for the 34-year-old Smith.
General manager Dave Gettleman cast doubt on Smith's future last month at the scouting combine with a noncommittal response to a question about the franchise's all-time leading receiver. The two met last week, although no details have emerged about what was discussed.
If the Panthers plan to release Smith and designate him as a June 1 cut -- which is beneficial from a salary cap standpoint -- he has to be on the roster when the league year begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, which is also the start of free agency.
Panthers re-sign Williams, Brockel
The Panthers have signed a couple of their own free agents, and might have a couple of more transactions by the close of business Monday.
Offensive lineman Garry Williams agreed to a one-year deal while fullback/tight end Richie Brockel received a two-year deal, the team announced.
Terms were not disclosed.
Williams, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent, was the Week 1 starter at right guard before tearing his ACL against Seattle and missing the rest of the season. The sixth-year player can play guard and tackle, and will be in the mix at tackle in the wake of Jordan Gross' retirement.
Brockel is a jack-of-all-trades who was one of the team's three restricted free agents.
Starting right tackle Byron Bell, another RFA, is a candidate to replace Gross on the left side. Bell's re-signing could be announced later Monday.
Cornerback James Dockery, an RFA who missed most of last season with injuries, is less certain to return.
The Panthers are expected to retain both of their exclusive rights free agents -- offensive linemen Jeff Byers and Chris Scott, who started eight games at guard last season before getting hurt.
March 08, 2014
Mike Mitchell, Ted Ginn Jr. expected to hit open market
Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. -- the team's top priorities among their own free agents -- are expected to hit the open market Tuesday when the free agency signing period begins.
Mitchell and Ginn signed one-year deals with the Panthers last offseason and played big roles in the 12-win season that produced the Panthers' first playoff appearance in five years.
Both players are looking to cash in on their success from 2013, but the Panthers' salary cap situation could hinder their ability to re-sign them to long-term deals.
After defensive end Greg Hardy signed a $13.1 million franchise tender this week, the Panthers are about $7 million below the $133 million cap. Teams have to be below the cap when the league year begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Mitchell, 26, was a backup in Oakland who flourished as a starter with the Panthers. He brought a physical presence to the back end of the league's second-ranked defense, and his four interceptions tied middle linebacker Luke Kuechly for the team lead.
Mitchell is expected to draw interest from several teams during the league's three-day negotiating window, which began at noon Saturday. The Falcons, who reportedly plan to release safety Thomas DeCoud, could be among the suitors for Mitchell.
The Panthers have a fall-back option on their roster in safety Charles Godfrey, who missed most of last season after rupturing his Achilles in Week 2. Godfrey was thought to be a potential salary cap casualty, but the Panthers could try to restructure his deal if it looks like they can't re-sign Mitchell.
Ginn, 28, had a career resurgence last season after a couple of forgettable years in San Francisco. Ginn posted career highs with five touchdown catches and a 15.4 yards-per-catch average as Cam Newton's favorite deep target.
Ginn also gave the Panthers a big-play threat in their return game, which is among the reasons the Panthers view him as a priority.
The Panthers have 18 remaining free agents, several of whom they would like to bring back on a short, team-friendly deals. That list includes starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, No. 2 tight end Ben Hartsock and backup quarterback Derek Anderson.
March 07, 2014
What's the future hold for Brandon LaFell?
Midway through the 2013 season, Steve Smith began campaigning for the Panthers to re-sign wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
Flash forward to March 2014 and we now see that Carolina may not hold Smith’s stump speeches in such high regard.
With questions about the future of Smith in Carolina, mystery abounds down the wide receiving depth chart. LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon are all slated to become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday.
But what’s to make of LaFell, the team’s No. 2 receiver for the past two years? His promising 17 yards per catch during the 2011 season that earned him the No. 2 spot dipped to 12.8 this past season—a make-or-break year for LaFell in the final year of his rookie contract.
LaFell, the team’s best blocking receiver, has battled a case of the drops for the better part of the past two seasons. And with just 627 receiving yards on 49 catches, his statistical production left a lot to be desired from the No. 2 receiver.
LaFell signed a four-year, $3.47 million contract when he was drafted in the third round out of LSU in 2010. In his next deal, be it with the Panthers or elsewhere, he’s likely to fetch around $1 million per year.
Here’s why: LaFell did little to separate himself as a top receiver in the NFL during his four years, and as his production tapered off with more responsibility, he showed he may be better suited as a No. 3.
The market will soon be saturated with wide receivers just like LaFell. Jason Avant, Lance Moore and Sidney Rice are just three players who have similar numbers to LaFell and could offer equal or greater production at the same price.
Avant, a former Eagle, is known as one of the league’s good guys, and he would be instrumental in developing a young wide receivers’ meeting room. Moore, who tweeted Thursday he will be released by New Orleans, could offer keen insight into a team the Panthers will play twice a year (plus, he’s one year separated from a 1,000-yard season). And Rice would come at a bargain with injuries in his past, but still has the youth (27) and size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) teams covet.
Once you get past the veterans on the market, then comes May’s draft, which promises to be deep at wide receiver. As many as six receivers—Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marquise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin—could go in the first round.
Ultimately, it’s possible the Panthers will offer LaFell a cheap, short-term contract and allow LaFell to test the market. That deal would also come with the caveat that he has either lost his No. 2 spot or that he will have to compete for it like everyone else in Spartanburg.
Because the demand on receivers will be the same as it always is in the NFL, and because the supply of serviceable (and cheap) receivers will be high, there may not be a better offer out there for LaFell.
March 06, 2014
Steve Smith: I'm a Panther until I'm told otherwise
Steve Smith didn’t want to discuss the specifics of his meeting with Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman earlier this week.
When asked by ESPN at Clemson's Pro Day about the likelihood of returning to the Panthers in 2014 for his 14th season, Smith said he is still a member of the Carolina Panthers but didn’t say much more.
“Here’s all I have to say about it,” Smith said. “I am working out and doing all the things as I am a Carolina Panther. That’s where I am. And I’ll continue to move forward until I am told otherwise.”
Smith, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, reiterated his surprise when he heard he was “part of the evaluation process.” Gettleman said those words at the NFL scouting combine, and Tuesday was the first time Smith had spoken with Gettleman since his exit interview following the playoff loss to San Francisco.
“Like every offseason they are making moves and making decisions that are going to be, moving forward, for the betterment of the team,” Smith told ESPN. “Those decisions and those conversations I don’t know all of them. I’m not in the meeting rooms. But we talked about some things. And what we talked about it is what we talked about.”
Smith has said he can’t envision not playing in 2014. But with the possibility of not being on the Panthers’ roster in 2014, Smith was asked if he could imagine playing for any other team. He dodged that question, as well.
“It’s a business and I understand that, and ultimately decisions aren’t up to me,” Smith said. “I’m a player. At the end of the day, if a team decides to move on, I have to either accept that or I go sit at home and cry about it. So we’ll see.”
Smith is scheduled to make $4 million in base salary this year, with a cap figure of $7 million. He did not discuss any specifics regarding his contract.
Are the Panthers interested in Devin Hester?
Panthers coach Ron Rivera has never tried to hide his respect and admiration for Chicago return specialist Devin Hester, who told NFL Network on Wednesday he expects the Bears to release him.
Rivera, a former Bears assistant, watched Hester almost singlehandedly beat the Panthers in 2011 when he returned a Jason Baker punt 69 yards for a touchdown, and brought back a kickoff 73 yards to set up another touchdown.
With the 31-year-old Hester about to hit the open market, could the Panthers be among his suitors?
That depends on how the negotiations with Ted Ginn Jr. progress.
The Panthers view Ginn as one of their free agent priorities after he caught a career-high five touchdown passes in 2013 and gave the Panthers a big-play threat in their return games during his first year in Charlotte.
The 28-year-old Ginn is younger than Hester and a more accomplished receiver. Given the uncertainty of Steve Smith's future with the Panthers and the fact three receivers are eligible for free agency, Ginn's success as a receiver last season has to give him an edge on Hester.
Hester said he's interested in reuniting with former Bears coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay, a scenario that would pit him against the Panthers twice a year.
But with Hester's resume -- his 19 career returns for touchdown are tied with Deion Sanders for the NFL record -- and Rivera's history with him in Chicago, the Panthers almost have to kick the tires on him.
If nothing else, it could provide leverage in their talks with Ginn.
March 05, 2014
Greg Olsen talks about the franchise tag at the tight end position
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen sits down with CineSport's Noah Coslov to discuss Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's case over the team's franchise tag use as Graham thinks he should be paid as a WR.
March 04, 2014
Smith sits down with Gettleman
Panthers wideout Steve Smith met with general manager Dave Gettleman on Tuesday, according to a league source.
Smith called the meeting after Gettleman was non-committal about Smith's future with the team when asked about him at the scouting combine last month.
"Steve's had a great career. He really has," Gettleman said in Indianapolis. "None of us are here forever. But that's not to say -- he's part of the evaluation process. That's just the way it is."
Smith, who will turn 35 in May, saw his production slip in 2013.
His 64 catches were his third-lowest during a full season in his 13-year career, and his 745 receiving yards were his second fewest, behind his 554-yard total in 2010. Smith's 11.6 yards-per-catch average also ranked among the worst of his career.
With his fiery temperament and his place atop all of the franchise's career receiving charts, Smith remains popular among the team's fan base. He also has a good relationship with owner Jerry Richardson.
Smith is set to make $4 million this year, with a cap figure of $7 million.
Hardy signs $13.1 million franchise tender
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has signed his franchise tender, guaranteeing his $13.1 million salary for this season, a league source said Tuesday.
The move means Hardy can not sign an offer sheet with another team and gives the Panthers incentive to get a long-term deal done with Hardy for salary-cap purposes.
The Panthers continue to negotiate a multiyear deal with Hardy, although it's unclear how close the two sides are.
With Hardy signing the tender and the Panthers signing kicker Graham Gano to a four-year, $12 million deal last week, the Panthers now are about $7 million below the $133 million salary cap.
Hardy and defensive end Charles Johnson now account for more than $29 million of the team's salary cap.
A long-term deal for Hardy would supersede the franchise tender.
Hardy, 25, went to his first Pro Bowl in January after tying the Kevin Greene's franchise record with 15 sacks.