I'd like to thank those who contributed and at this time the comment section will be open for discussion. Please, lets keep it to the arguments at hand; there have been plenty of opportunities to present our opinions on the matter, and out of respect to the debaters lets refer to points they brought up specifically.
3rd speakers after the jump...
I would like to begin by commending speakers on the negative side for their efforts in this debate. Panthers4Life argued that poor QB play has hampered Smitty's production. He also claimed that Steve Smith is needed as the other receivers lack experience. PanthersPaul expanded on this point and said that an upgrade at QB is what we need to become playoff/Super Bowl contenders.
While an upgrade at QB would help, we are in a bind for the 2011 season. There is uncertainty about when free agency will take place. In addition, QBs like McNabb or Palmer will have to learn a new offense in a very limited period of time. The coaching staff will have to work out how they use Smith in a scheme that primarily requires big receivers and tight ends to be involved in the passing scheme. Any rookie QB would have bigger challenges with minimal time available to acclimate to the NFL game. We also have the toughest schedule in 2011- our opponents have a combined win percentage of 55%. Despite having a roster that is rich in many areas, we need time to develop. I can see us racking up about 6 wins despite the challenges but a playoff run is highly unlikely.
This is not to say that we would "give up" on 2011, As JR said, he asked Hurney to make decisions keeping the long term in mind. Steve Smith will be 33 next year and as my fellow speakers have pointed out,his natural athletic abilities are waning. It is also likely that Steve Smith will be a distraction for the coaching staff if things don't go according to his liking. If our plans include a rookie QB, we all know that Steve Smith can at times become a rookie's worst enemy.
Smith will have a lot less to offer beyond a year or two at this stage of his career. It makes sense to get a valuable 3rd round pick for him while we continue rebuilding and look to the future given that his impact on the team is steadily decreasing.
Hello CSR. ERL here, speaking on behalf of the negative.
Let me start off by saying that Steve Smith is just 31 years old. There seems to be a common misconception about where he is in his career. Listening to many Panther fans, you would think that Smith is 38 years old, coming off three or four years of ineffective play. This is clearly not the case. Smith is still very quick and explosive, witnessed most prominently by his dynamic punt returns during the 2010 season.
During the 2010 season, Smith was also coming off two very serious arm injuries. For a wide receiver, having an arm injury, and more specifically two forearm injuries, it can be very difficult to overcome--both physically and mentally.
The Panthers wide receiving corps, after Smith, has roughly 100 total career receptions combined. We have needed another dangerous wide receiver to put opposite Smith for years. How is that problem helped by trading away our best receiver for what could be deemed too little compensation?
It is exciting to see the development of 2010 rookies Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. Are we to be sure that they could continue their development at the same pace without an experienced veteran playing with them?
Furthermore, will LaFell and Gettis have the same opportunities they had in 2010 against single coverage if Smith is not a Panther? Not likely. One of them will be subject to a double team, as Smith has always been. With that, I don't think we can expect either LaFell or Gettis to make many plays against a double team--something Smith has proven himself capable of.
In short, LaFell and Gettis blossomed with Smith as their teammate. We do not yet know how/if they would progress without him.
Take a long look at our WR room without Steve Smith. I for one am frightened at the thought. The combination of LaFell, Gettis, Edwards, Clowney, Wallace and Martin does not strike fear in the hearts of many defensive coordinators. Steve Smith is still a very good player. He demands that opposing defensive coordinators spend preparation time scheming against him. Without Smith, they would head straight to the golf course.