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WR Smith bids farewell to Panthers

The SportsXchange

Wide receiver Steve Smith announced Wednesday that he will not be returning to the Carolina Panthers.

Smith confirmed earlier reports that the Panthers would not re-sign him at age 34.

"I will always be a Carolina panther No contract can ever change that CLT is my home and will always be my home... I love you #panthernation," Smith tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

"But I still have a lil bit of football left in me.... #agent89 Out."

The question is where will he end up next. There were reports as the free agency period began Tuesday that the Panthers were trying to trade the veteran. It now appears that the team could release him.

Smith is due to make $7 million under the salary cap next season. If the Panthers release him, they still owe the 13-year veteran $3 million in 2014 as part of a three-year extension he signed in 2012.

"Where we are disappointed is the fact he signed an extension to stay loyal to the club and complete his career as a Panther," his agent, Derrick Fox, told the Associated Pres. "That is why we did the long-term team deal. Now we are at a crossroads where the Panthers don't want him anymore."

With Smith apparently on the way out, the Panthers are left with Tavarres King, Marvin McNutt and Kealoha Pilares as their top three receivers.

Smith was drafted by the Panthers in the third round in 2001. He would leave as the team's career receptions leader with 836 catches for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns. He ranks 19th in NFL history in receiving yards and 25th in catches.

Smith caught four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in Carolina's 23-10 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in January and finished the 2013 season with 64 receptions for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

Smith's release would count $5 million toward the salary cup. If he is designated for a June 1 release, the money could be split over the next two seasons.

In other player news, free agent cornerback James Dockery tweeted that he has re-signed with the Panthers.

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