Smith enters free-agent pool after being cut by Panthers

Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:00pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith joined the free-agent pool on Thursday after he was cut by the Carolina Panthers after 13 seasons with the NFL club.

The 35-year-old Smith, a fiercely competitive, undersized receiver, had been a steady bright spot over the years for a Panthers team that reached the playoffs last season for the first time in five years.

"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," Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement.

"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."

The elusive, 5-foot-9 Smith holds over 30 franchise records on offense and special teams.

He is the Panthers' all-time leader with 75 touchdowns, 836 receptions, 12,197 receiving yards and 43 games with 100 or more receiving yards.

In 2013, Smith had 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns, a drop of nine receptions and 429 receiving yards from the previous season.

"He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. "I wish him nothing but the best."

One talented veteran did not get his wish to become a free agent when the New Orleans Saints instead traded versatile running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles.   Continued...

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) celebrates a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports