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May 08, 2007

Smith just step one of Panthers' strategy

  One down, two to go.

   Tuesday's announcement that the Panthers have signed Steve Smith to a contract extension was only the first part of a critical three-step process for the future of the team.

   Smith  is locked up for the long term. But general manager Marty Hurney has two huge challenges in front of him. The team also wants to sign defensive end Julius Peppers and offensive tackle Jordan Gross to extensions.

   Any deal for Peppers will be the richest in franchise history and Gross won't be cheap. But those moves now become Hurney's top two priorities.

   At the NFL meeting in Phoenix in March, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said the team wanted to sign Smith, Peppers and Gross to long-term deals. Richardson said he didn't see any problem making the finances work. But the owner did say there would be a trickle-down effect. Richardson said the trio will take up a huge portion of the salary cap in future years and that means the team will have to carry more younger and inexpensive players.

   Driving to Bank of America Stadium this morning for a news conference to formally announce Steve Smith's three-year contract extension, I thought of an incident back in 2002. That's when the Panthers first started thinking seriously of letting Smith, who was primarily a return man as a rookie in 2001, play a large role as a wide receiver.

   Another media member, who used to cover the team, came up with this observation: "I don't think he can play wide receiver in this league."

   That person wasn't alone in his thinking. There were a lot of folks in the media and, even in NFL personnel departments, that thought Smith was too small to be an effective receiver.

   Five years later, Smith might be the best receiver in the game.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 8, 2007 at 11:13 AM | Permalink


Come on, who was the "sports expert?"

Posted by: Ben | May 8, 2007 11:28:47 AM

It's good to see Smith rewarded for his hard work and play on the field. Hopefully they can get Gross and Peppers signed to long term, cap friend( as much as possible) deals. Peppers is a must, but with the depth we now have on the O-line I might not be surprised to see Gross left unsigned for now.

Posted by: John Watson | May 8, 2007 11:37:22 AM

Sure, Pepp is nice, but it'd be nice to see him dominate on a game-to-game basis like he (and everybody else) knows he can. To see him get shut down time and time again by guys like Andrew Whitworth is sad to watch. And as for Gross, we may have depth in the interior line, but on the outside, we're strugglin' for sure.

Posted by: Michael Procton | May 8, 2007 12:34:05 PM

MP -- How much of Pep's productivity is Pep and how much is the scheme?

If I see much more of Pep downfield trying to cover WRs half the time on 3rd downs -- as seemed to be the case last year -- I'm going to lose my mind.

Zone blitzes with Pep in coverage should be the change up -- not our base defense, as seemed to be the case.

More to the point, Pep needs to threaten tackles more with the outside speed rush EARLY in the game to make stunts and twists and bull rushes more effective.

Again, Trgo seems to go for exactly the opposite mix. He seems to "save" Pep's edge rushes for the 4th quarter. I lost track of how many games that took place in last year.

Like I've said before, I'm not certain we got rid of the right co-ordinator.

Posted by: JAT | May 8, 2007 1:12:45 PM

If Julius was more productive early in the game, maybe he'd have a better chance to get pass-rush calls. Getting stonewalled time and time again by guys like the aforementioned Andrew Whitworth is not a way to inspire confidence in the play-caller.

Posted by: Michael Procton | May 8, 2007 4:26:07 PM

We all love Peppers, but I for one cannot STAND to see his goofy laughing w/ opponents after they make big plays.( the Philly game p...ed me off) I am curious...... Just what could a team get in exchange for a player like him?? That Dallas / Minn trade w/ Walker years ago won Dallas a couple rings........ Again, just curious...............

Posted by: Tim | May 8, 2007 8:53:30 PM

I'm happy for Steve and his family. He's
a hard worker and a good representive of the Charlina Panthers. He gives a complete
effort when he puts on that uniform. And
earns every dime he gets paid. If we had
a team that every player gave that much we would be playing in the Super Bowl every season. Thanks again from a fan in South

Posted by: Duffer | May 8, 2007 10:17:34 PM

From what I gathered toward the end of last season for whatever reason Peppers was losing weight and I believe Fox had even commented that he had lost too much. I believe by the end of season was 20 lbs.. The last 4 games he was hardly mentioned. You cannot lose 20 lbs. and not lose some muscle with that and strentgh,stamina. Sounds funny too me.

Posted by: bt | May 8, 2007 11:04:52 PM

who ever that was talking about peppers not playing hard should watch the games a little closer, the guys a beast, he gets held on every down and nobody ever brings it up, i mean its rediculous to watch, but i do agree we drop him into coverage to much, when you have a guy with that pass rushing ability you gotta use it, oh yeah and congrats to smith hes finally getting paid what hes worth

Posted by: steve | May 8, 2007 11:37:12 PM

That was good damage control for last week's debacle, but is it going to cost the franchise? The team still needs a good TE, at least one more premiere S, and a decent LT tackle wouldn't hurt either. Couldn't they have waited to sign a couple of players before doing something like this? More importantly, back to the first question, can the franchise really afford throwing extra money at people still under contract for the next three years???

Posted by: SYRPIS | May 9, 2007 3:04:15 AM

GREAT MOVE.Steve Smith should be a panther for life. As for Syrpis why not sign him now the market will just go up in the next three years also for a player that gives you 150% every day lets give back the same to him. I also saw where someone said we fired the wrong coordinator. Does LAST in the NFL in 3rd down conversions mean anything to you. Our offense was FLAT all year however our defense was in the top 10 in the league. Since Fox's arrival our D has been in the top 10= 4 of 6 times. I don't think there is any reason to speculate big moves on D. I am EXTREMELY EXCITED about J.Davidson. a young OC...WHO will bring that spark the panthers were missing last year. LETS GO PANTHERS

Posted by: WOWO | May 9, 2007 10:21:55 AM

Signing Smith "now" was tremendous, could you imagine trying to sign him two years from now if he continues to play the way he does... Good Signing! Peppers should be next to be sign, teams game plan against him and fear the defense because of him. They don't fear the Line Backers (Dan Morgan, Draft,...) or our safeties (Oh I "Minter" break up the pass)and barely our corners; and we still rank high among the leagues defenses. Gross shouldn't be signed until after this season, that way we can scout our other talent on the O-Line before making a long term commitment. If the younger talent plays well enough then we can afford to loss the laden contarcts of Hartwig, Gross, or Whale. Keep the best of the best I'd say, but if they're beat out by our youth movement then.....

Posted by: Caro2daheart | May 9, 2007 5:29:38 PM

congrats., smitty you are a class act i wish had more players like you, you bring it on every down on off., you deserve every pennie you got in your new deal. it would be crazy to see you in any other uniform other than the panthers. as for pep. you guys must do'nt look at games this guy is almost held on every down if not that, he is double teamed by linemen and sometimes by linemen and running backs give the man a brake he gets tired, come on front office let's get these deals done, i'm tired of seeing our good players go to other places, i'm tired of us keeping dead weight around come on spend the freaking money man, i'm out the HITMAN.

Posted by: HITMAN | May 10, 2007 9:14:58 AM

Why does it seem that us "non" experts know more than the so called defensive coordinator knows about the correct usage of the mighty man we know as Peppers. Peppers is a tremendous athlete and I think because of that, he is overextended or overused like someone who thinks to much on a simple problem which then becomes complicated. Its easy to see that Trgovac is Carolina's defense's detriment and that's not an opinion. Let our boys play what they are supposed to play. Peppers is not a cornerback so why drop him in coverage so much? Sadly, I really like Coach Fox but I think his time might be limited because he kept Trgovac instead of bringing in a real defensive coordinator. I kind of miss Del Rio because back then our defense was feared. I hope Foxy wakes up before he and Trgovac are out the door because I am definite that Trgovac is done. Like Foxy's famous quote "It is what it is."

Posted by: vchill2974 | May 12, 2007 1:02:07 AM

Dang,CPNFL Insider just caused my BSometer to go off the charts. Too much comedy! Nothing like a rant with self-vetted credentials.

Posted by: S.H. | May 13, 2007 3:22:22 AM

Dang,CPNFL Insider just caused my BSometer to go off the charts. Too much comedy! Nothing like a rant with self-vetted credentials.

Posted by: S.H. | May 13, 2007 3:41:58 AM

Whats that website, honey?

Posted by: S.H. | May 14, 2007 6:54:28 PM

Seriously...sign me up, right?

Posted by: Michael Procton | May 14, 2007 7:37:35 PM

I do agree we now have better depth inside. Signing steve is an excellent move. Peppers was from what i observed discouraged as the season progressed by play calls. Yes keep him out of coverage. With his pass rushing ability he should be turned loose and allowed to be the monster he is.zone blitzes with peppers in coverage is the change up.back to steve he is getting what he worked sooooo hard for. I love watching him play because many said he was too small. Not so small anymore is he? He is a monster on the field and does give 150% when he plays. You can tell by the way he plays he loves the game and doesn't mind getting physical with the big guys. We love you steve.

Posted by: carl weeks | Jun 6, 2007 12:25:14 PM

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