It looks like Steve Smith will be traded/released this week. He may have by the time you are reading this. I don't see a trade due to his 7 million due this year and then the team would also be on the hook for next year as well. So unless we can swing a trade where we trade Smitty plus a fourth round pick for a bag of footballs, I don't see a trade happening. I don't think the CBA would allow that.
This begs the question....Why? Why would they cut the only receiver remaining of the top four. Why get rid of last year's #1 receiver? Why part ways with the greatest Panther in history? Based on articles I've read, conjecture, and my own opinions, I've come up with some possibilities.
The Salary Cap: Normally cuts like this are based on the cap. In this case, the cap savings will be minimal. It's very confusing because I've seen various claims that if the designated him a June 1st cut, that the Panthers would save 1 million to 4.5 million in cap space. Some people say that it doesn't help the Panthers now because the savings won't take effect until June 1st. However, it actually does free up some money because Gettleman knows he can use that money on draft picks and it is money that he doesn't have to set aside now. Thereby actually creating usable cap space. It also may be wanting to take the cap hit now and freeing up money next year. I don't know what his cap number would be next year, but I assume this is also decreasing next years cap hit. It is very likely that he was approached to cut his pay and he refused. Perhaps the team wanted to send a message that said "if you aren't living up to your salary, then take a cut or get cut."
He pissed off Dave Gettleman: Gettleman created a firestorm at the combine by saying that Steve was part of the "evaluation process". I think it was blown way out of proportion. Gettleman was asked a question and there weren't many ways to answer the question without setting off bells. Short of telling an outright lie, he had to tread lightly. He may not have known at that time what he was going to do with Steve. Given that he said Steve had a great career here, it seems he was handling the best he could. Unfortunately, the press reacted, Steve reacted, and it blew up. Then Steve asked for a meeting. More importantly, Steve's agent said that Gettleman's comments coupled with the lack of communication caused "irreparable" damage. This would imply that Steve had a sense of entitlement that he was different than everyone else. Obviously we don't know what happened during the season. However, it is possible that Steve rubbed Gettleman the wrong way. Under the previous regime, Steve may have been vocal to management and expected the same treatment. Gettleman seems like the kind of guy that would look down upon such things. He may have been trying to send a message that Steve is just another guy, and Steve's reaction showed that he wasn't willing to be just another guy.
He pissed off the coaching staff: Steve may have been openly complaining about the coaching. Maybe complaining about Shula's system or that the system didn't scheme for him enough. As we know, Steve doesn't hide his feelings or opinion well. It is possible that the coaching staff felt he was undercutting them.
He was impeding Cam's development: Some leaders are born and others are developed. I believe Cam is in the later category, and is currently developing into a leader. It is possible that the coaching staff wanted him to step aside and be less vocal so that it would be Cam's team. Steve may have said "I'm going to be who I am" and the coaching staff believed that it was an impediment to Cam's leadership. Think of it this way. Steve being very vocal and opinionated could be demanding things from Cam and doing so in front of others. Given Steve's leadership role and tenor, Cam wasn't able to put him in his place. With new receivers coming in, Cam has to be taught to take control of his receivers. As long as Steve was there, that probably wasn't going to happen.
He was impeding the development of receivers: We've been saying for years that the Panthers need to bring in some receivers that could compliment Steve. It's not like the Panthers haven't tried. There have been multiple receivers drafted that never developed. I don't expect Steve to "mentor" receivers. However, he also shouldn't undercut their development. Whether he did that intentionally or unintentionally isn't really relevant. However, with one or two rookie WRs coming in, is it possible that the staff thought he could hurt their development?
He became a locker room distraction: Steve was on a local radio show as a co-host throughout the season last year. He was often very frank on the show. Is it possible that it irritated some players? Steve's strong personality could have been keeping other leaders from being able to step up. Again, given his personality, ego, his tenure with the team and a sense of entitlement, it may have been wearing thin on the newer and younger players. I mean, who is going to tell Steve Smith to get of the radio or stop talking crap in the locker room?
Again, all of this is conjecture. It could be one of these, none of these, or a combination. I do know that we will hear Steve Smith's side of the story. What I don't know is if the other side will come out or if we will ever fully know the truth.