NFL News: Carolina Panthers Release Steve Smith

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The Carolina Panthers did not trade wide receiver Steve Smith but they decided to let him go anyway after releasing him on Thursday.

"When I took this position, I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way," said Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman in a statement. "To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all, a decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it's the right one.”

"As I've stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long-term best interest of the Carolina Panthers. Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view."

The Baltimore Ravens have shown interest in the 13-year veteran and tried to trade for his services before he was cut by the Panthers. The Ravens remain interested and are considered the front-runners to get him in free agency.

Now 34 years old, Smith spent all of his NFL career with one team after being drafted in the third round in the 2011 NFL Draft by Carolina.

The veteran is excited for the “free agency experience” however.

"I'm going to get a few free dinners out of it at nice, expensive restaurants and see what its like," Smith told Sirius XM's Bleacher Report Radio according to ESPN.COM. "I want to enjoy and absorb this experience that, quite frankly, I will never experience again.''

Smith, who is Carolina’s all-time leader in catches (836), receiving yards (12,197) and touchdowns (69), was also honest in evaluating himself and how he can contribute to his next team.

"I am no longer a No. 1 wide receiver and I know that,'' he said. "And I've been knowing that, and I don't have a problem with that. I will adjust to whatever team and whatever role that I would have. The only thing is I would like to know what that role is and what the expectation is so I can exceed it.''

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