The longest tenured WR in Carolina history could be on the move this offseason as the 32 year old vet has grown frustrated with the anemic QB play that has plagued the Panther franchise in recent memory. Carolina finished with the league’s worst passing attack in 2010 and is rumored to be giving serious consideration to using the #1 overall pick on QBs Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert. Regardless of who is under center if and when 2011 kicks off, it’s obvious that Carolina is in full rebuilding mode after posting a 2-14 record last season.
Smith was a 3rd round pick in the 2001 NFL draft out of the University of Utah. He is regarded as one of the toughest receivers in the league and has been rather durable over his career. Smith missed the 2004 season after suffering a broken leg in the opener but has averaged 15 games a year over the past six seasons. The 5’9, 185 pounder is a four-time Pro Bowler and led the league in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns in 2005. From 2005-2009, he averaged over 1,200 yards and 8 TDs but 2010 was a different story with Jimmy Clausen at the helm. Smith’s numbers were nearly cut in half in his 10th NFL season and a change of scenery is the best case scenario for those that own him in dynasty leagues.
Carolina recently hired Fred Graves to be the new WR coach under first year coach Ron Rivera. The move is regarded as a last ditch effort to placate Smith’s trade demands as Graves recruited Smith at the University of Utah a decade ago. Carolina would be better served concentrating its efforts on upgrading the talent on the field (time to move on from the Matt Moore / Clausen combo). Adding talent opposite Smith should be a top priority as well as their 2nd leading receiver in 2010 was rookie Brandon LaFell (38 catches for 468 yards) – Keyshawn where are you ?
Pending a CBA agreement we think Smith’s trade demands will be met and the vet will get a chance to play for a team with a legit chance of making the playoffs in the near future. Carolina is without a 2nd round pick (WR Armanti Edwards trade from New England – another fleecing by Bill Belichick). Trading Smith for a 2nd round would be advisable and we expect Carolina would have many takers as Smith still has the skill set to emerge as the top receiver for WR needy teams on the cusp of going deep into the playoffs.
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NEW ENGLAND – Wes Welker is a high end slot WR but is not a true #1 WR. The Patriots would benefit from adding a bigger possession target but could decide to go with the 2011 version of the Smurfs . Since trading Randy Moss, the Pats have been searching for a downfield threat and despite his age, Stevie Smith can still blow the top off a defense . His TD numbers could be limited by TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (10 TEs in 2010) but Smith would have a great chance at posting his sixth 1,000 yard season with Tom Brady under center. Smith would be a top 15 receiver if a trade to Foxboro materializes.
ST. LOUIS: With rookie QB Sam Bradford at the helm, the Rams posted an impressive turnaround 2010 season finishing with a 7-9 record (just short of the playoffs). The NFC West is up for grabs after Seattle represented with a losing record. The Rams passing game ranked 21st (204 yards/game) and they scored only 18 pts/game in Bradford’s first season. In 2010, Danny Amendola led the team with 85 catches for 689 yards and 3 TDs – not exactly #1 WR numbers. With numerous teams in the top 10 rumored to be targeting Julio Jones and AJ Green, the Rams might have to explore the trade route if they plan to equip Sam Bradford with a true #1 WR.
CHICAGO– If the Mike Martz offense is to succeed they need to upgrade and add a veteran receiver. The Bears got about as close as it gets in 2010 but their odds of repeating in the NFC north is contingent on upgrading a below average WR corps. Johnny Knox (960 yards, 5 TDs) proved to be starter worthy but Jay Cutler would welcome an upgrade from Devin Hester. The Bears need to improve their red zone efficiency and Jackson would help to upgrade Chicago’s 28th ranked passing offense. Smith and Knox could form the second coming of Holt/Bruce for OC Martz.
BALTIMORE: The Ravens could use another WR opposite Anquan Boldin (who fizzled down the stretch). Veteran Derrick Mason is on the decline and is an impending free agent. If the Ravens were to add Smith with Boldin, they’d possess arguably the toughest WR corps in league history. If the 2011 NFL season remains locked out, those two could easily form a successful tag team in the WWE.