What’s been expected for a couple days became official Thursday morning as the Carolina Panthers released longtime wide receiver Steve Smith.
And the Ravens are ready to pounce as multiple outlets immediately pointed to Baltimore as the favorite to land the 34-year-old wideout who had spent his entire 13-year career with the Panthers. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound receiver is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and has long been praised for his toughness and playmaking ability despite his slight stature.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Smith was to fly to Baltimore Thursday night to meet with the Ravens on Friday. However, New England, San Diego, Washington, and Seattle have also expressed interest in the veteran receiver, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“He can play. It would be nice,” wide receiver Jacoby Jones said after signing his four-year contract on Thursday. “[I'd have] open arms. If you can play, and they like you, then I love you.”
Smith was scheduled to carry a $7 million cap figure, but the Panthers instead elected to move on from the franchise’s all-time receiving leader after he recorded 64 catches for 745 yards in 15 games, his lowest totals since 2010. Carolina will still owe him $5 million as he will receive $3 million guaranteed and an additional $2 million in deferred bonus money.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh expressed their desire at the beginning of the offseason to acquire an impact receiver who can move the chains and gain yards after the catch. However, Smith’s 11.6 yards per catch average in 2013 was the second-lowest mark of his career (not counting the 2004 season in which he only played one game) and a sharp decline from the 16.1 yards he averaged per reception in 2012.
In his career, Smith has recorded seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons and has caught 67 touchdowns, but he will turn 35 in May.