The Carolina Panthers have released wide receiver Steve Smith, the team announced Thursday.
A veteran of 13 NFL seasons, all with the Panthers, Smith holds more than 30 career, single-season and single-game franchise records on offense and special teams. He is the Panthers all-time leader with 75 total touchdowns (67 receiving, six returning, two rushing), 67 receiving touchdowns, 836 receptions, 12,197 receiving yards and 43 games with 100 or more receiving yards. He has made a catch in a team-record 106 consecutive games. Smith stands second in team history with 182 games played, 161 games started and 454 points scored.
“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,” says general manager Dave Gettleman. “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.”
“Steve has been an important part of this team since I have been head coach and before my arrival,” says head coach Ron Rivera. “I have coached against him and have had the benefit of having him on the Panthers. He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community. I wish him nothing but the best.”
In 2013, Smith posted 64 catches and 745 receiving yards with four receiving touchdowns and became the 29th player in NFL history to produce 800 career receptions and the 22nd to compile 12,000 career receiving yards.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection (2001, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011), Smith stands 11th in NFL history for 100-yard receiving games, 19th for receiving yards and 25th for catches.
A third-round draft choice (74th overall) of the Panthers in 2001 out of Utah, Smith scored on the first regular season touch of his career, returning the opening kickoff at Minnesota (9/9/01) 93 yards for a touchdown. He was the only rookie named to the Pro Bowl that season and earned All-Pro honors from the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and others. In 2005, Smith was the NFL’s “Triple Crown” winner, leading the League with 1,563 receiving yards and tying for first with 103 receptions and 12 touchdown catches. He earned his second AP All-Pro selection that season.
Smith was a member of four of the five playoff teams in Panthers history (2003, 2005, 2008, 2013). In nine postseason contests, Smith totaled 51 receptions for 856 yards and eight touchdowns. His postseason receiving yards total is the most in NFL history by a player after his first nine postseason contests.
STATEMENT FROM DAVE GETTLEMAN:
When I took this position I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way. To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all. A decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it’s the right one.
As I’ve stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long term best interest of the Carolina Panthers. Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view.
Sometimes it may appear that short term interests will suffer, and I can assure you we have no interest in taking a step back from our 2013 accomplishments. Nevertheless, like all NFL teams, we are in transition as we try to get into the best position going forward. When Mr. Richardson hired me I promised him that my goal would be to leave the Panthers in a better position than when I came. All my efforts are in that vein.
Over the next few months we will have the opportunities afforded by Free Agency and the College Draft to improve our roster. We also have young players who will get an opportunity. I have great trust in our evaluation process.
Steve had a wonderful career with the Carolina Panthers. I truly wish him and his wife, Angie, all of God’s blessings.