Smith only will consider playing for a handful of teams, sources tell Shutdown Corner, and there are a few considerations in his decision.
As we reported Tuesday night, the Baltimore Ravens are the team most interested in his services. The Ravens are short on draft picks this year, but they did reach out to the Panthers when Smith was on the trade block. No deal happened, obviously, but you can bet that the Ravens will be among the first teams calling when Smith is officially a free man.
Another reason why the Ravens are attractive: Smith's wife is expecting their fourth child late this summer, and he wants to be close to his family for the delivery. Baltimore is about an hour-long flight from Charlotte, where Smith makes his home.
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But there are a few other teams in the mix.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a slot receiver, and Smith has great respect for Lovie Smith and Josh McCown, the Bucs' new starting quarterback. Smith and McCown are very close friends from their Panthers days together, and Smith wants to play more in the slot. He also would relish the chance to stick it to the Panthers twice per season.
The New England Patriots might be in the market for a veteran receiver, regardless of whether Julian Edelman skips town but most certainly if he does. The Patriots made a win-now move by signing cornerback Darrelle Revis, and Smith and Revis are close friends off the field. They have done battle several times the past few seasons, and each one has paid each other a lot of public respect. The two could choose to join forced on a Super Bowl-caliber Patriots roster, also giving Tom Brady another dependable receiver to throw to and one who can help mentor their younger wideouts. Smith and Danny Amendola also are close, having done charity work previously together.
A few other teams could be interested but perhaps to a lesser degree.
The San Diego Charger have two men, head coach Mike McCoy and receivers coach Fred Graves, who have connections to Smith — not only from their time together in Carolina, but also back to University of Utah. Graves was Smith's position coach there, and the two have a long-term friendship. McCoy was Smith's receivers coach as a rookie with the Panthers, and the former Utes quarterback jumped on the table for the Panthers to draft Smith when he was coming out in 2001. They remain tight, too.
The Dallas Cowboys are a team Smith has long wanted to play for, and there was talk he could head there in 2010 when the Panthers and Smith were at loggerheads over a new contract. Michael Irvin tried to talk Jerry Jones into adding Smith, and Deion Sanders did the same. Ultimately, Smith re-signed with the Panthers, and the Cowboys are extremely tight against the cap, so this is a pairing that might never happen.
But you can bet that Smith and his agent, Derrick Fox, could move quickly — perhaps as soon as this afternoon — to sign a new contract once the Panthers do the inevitable and release him. Smith will be motivated, even at age 35, to prove the Panthers are making a giant mistake letting him go, and doing so in a way that he and his camp feel is disrespectful.
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