Steve Smith is known for his loud mouth, on and off the field.
A lot of times when high-profile players say some things publicly, it can detract form their on-field performance — regardless if it's fair or not. When the Panthers decided to either trade or release Smith, a narrative emerged that he'd wore out his welcome in Carolina.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera disputed that notion, telling reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. that there were no ill feelings toward Smith's character when the organization decided to part ways with him.
"This is not a fly-by-night decision,'' Rivera said, via ESPN.com. "This was not a personal decision. ... There was nothing personal about it.
"I'm a little disappointed that so many people reacted the way they did without truly understanding there was a lot of things that go into this. This was not a willy-nilly, fly-by-night vengeful thing. This was a very calculated [decision].''
Truthfully, if the Panthers were fine with Smith by age 35, they would've been fine with him for the duration of his career if he was affordable in their long-term plans. As it often is with veterans, the price remains high while the risk of on-field deterioration rises. The Panthers made a choice to move on, though it shouldn't be construed as anything but business.
That's not to say this is simply damage control. But it just doesn't seem that likely for a team to cut a guy so they can transfer leadership elsewhere. While Smith was a leader in Carolina's locker room, Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly were too. With Smith no longer there, Newton and Kuechly are still team leaders and will continue to be.
Regardless, Carolina's decision works great for Baltimore. Though Smith isn't the player he was in the mid-2000s, he still has plenty to offer in Gary Kubiak's new offensive scheme.