If released, Steve Smith would be a hit for Pats

If released, Steve Smith would be a hit for Pats
March 10, 2014, 9:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

The Panthers are shopping Steve Smith. He’ll be 35 in May. He’s 5-foot-9. Some people think he’s nuts.
 
He’s a must-have for the Patriots.
 
But not via trade. Smith would bring the Patriots ability, toughness, dependability and leadership, but his contract is ugly. Smith is owed $4M in salary in 2014 and that salary will stick with him if he’s dealt.
 
If he is released, Smith will get $3M in guaranteed salary from Carolina. There may some offset language that would make the team claiming Smith responsible for some of the salary, but either way, it would be cheaper to wait for the Panthers to release Smith than to trade for him.
 
Of course, if the Patriots think he can help, they should pull the trigger.
 
He’s missed nine games since 2004 and played in 133. He is, in essence, the offensive equivalent of Rodney Harrison. He’s one of the NFL’s most competitive and aggressive players and would be the kind of veteran who could provide valuable pro guidance to the younger Patriots receivers.
 
His stats are on the decline – 64 catches, 745 yards and four touchdowns last year – but with a throw-first quarterback like Tom Brady, his numbers could shoot back up.