CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Steve Smith era in Carolina is over, the Panthers releasing their all-time leading receiver Thursday after 13 seasons.
"Steve has been one of the NFL's finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team's history," GM Dave Gettleman said. "As a team, we made a step forward last year; however we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL."
Smith said he's not angry about the decision. "It's devastating to hear that you are getting fired, but it's also exciting because that frees me up to be pursued by other teams," he said on SiriusXM Radio. "I have never become a free agent before, so I will get a few free dinners out of it at some nice expensive restaurants. I want to enjoy the experience that, frankly, I will never experience again."
Smith's agent, Derrick Fox, said the Panthers never asked Smith, who turns 35 in May, to restructure his current contract. The Panthers were unable to trade Smith, who was set to cost $7 million under the salary cap. The Panthers still owe Smith $3 million this season.
Eagles nab Sproles
The Eagles and coach Chip Kelly got another versatile playmaker for his offense, acquiring running back Darren Sproles from the Saints for a fifth-round draft pick.
"Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon," Kelly said. "He can do it all: run, catch, plus he's a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well."
Sproles, 30, actually ranked in the bottom five among punt returners and was third worst among kick returners. His offensive numbers also went down for a third straight season.
Bengals: Linebacker James Harrison, 35, was released, leaving the former defensive player of the year looking for his third team in three seasons.
Bills: Scott Chandler agreed to terms to return to where he established himself as the club's top pass-catching tight end.
Chargers: Quarterback Kellen Clemens agreed to terms on a two-year contract.
49ers: Jonathan Martin, who left the Dolphins in the fall after accusing teammate Richie Incognito of bullying, passed his physical to complete a trade that sent the offensive tackle to the 49ers and his college coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh. "It's a blank slate for me. I'm looking forward to revitalizing my career, getting back to playing," Martin said.
Raiders: The team signed defensive end Justin Tuck and linebacker LaMarr Woodley to two-year deals. The two pass rushers have combined for 117½ career sacks. Tuck will get $11 million and Woodley up to $12 million, ESPN reported.
Rams: Rodger Saffold, who has started at right tackle, right guard and left tackle for the team, re-signed with the club after an odd free agency. The former second-round pick agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Raiders on Tuesday, only to have the deal voided when he failed a physical because of a previous shoulder injury.
Redskins: Former Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher agreed to terms on a four-year, $27.5 million contract, the Associated Press reported.
Titans: Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who spent the past two seasons in San Diego, signed a multiyear deal that reunites him with Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was the Chargers' offensive coordinator last season.