Would the Panthers be open to trading Steve Smith this season?

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith stands on the field during a break in the action against the Washington Redskins at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 11, 2009. The Panthers won 20-17. UPI/Nell Redmond . Photo via Newscom

At 0-3 and committed to a rebuilding year in what could be John Fox’s final season as head coach, the Panthers might be wise to trade receiver Steve Smith in order to get something now for him while they still can.

Actually, Smith doesn’t become a free agent until 2013, so the Panthers have plenty of time to trade him if they inevitably choose too. But at 31, it’s not like he’s getting any younger and his trade value may never be higher than it is right now.

Carolina isn’t going anywhere this season with the amount of offensive line and quarterback issues they currently have. Thus, Smith is useless to this current team (he’s still a dynamic talent, but what good is he if nobody can get him the ball?), which is why Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer thinks the solution might be to trade him now.

Sorensen mentions Minnesota as a possible landing spot, which would be a perfect fit. But there are other teams that could definitely use Smith’s services, too.

The Seahawks are in first place in the worst division in football, but they’re desperate for a receiver after not pulling the trigger on Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson over the past couple of months. The Titans are high on Kenny Britt, but they could use another weapon in the passing game, as could the Steelers unless they’re completely sold on Hines Ward and Mike Wallace as their top guns. (I’m certainly not suggesting Ward or Wallace can’t get the job done, but I’m just throwing the idea out there.)

The wildcard is Atlanta, who has Roddy White but doesn’t have that complement at the No. 2 wideout position. Michael Jenkins is a terrific blocker but he isn’t a threat in the passing game and Harry Douglas is best left in the slot. Teams don’t usually trade within the division, but after the Eagles dealt Donovan McNabb to the Redskins this offseason, nothing would surprise me.

As of now, this is all just speculation. The Panthers haven’t given any indication that they’re ready to put Smith on the trade block and for all we know, he’s going to finish out his career in Carolina. But given the current state of the franchise, it’s an interesting thought.

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Steve Smith back by Week 1?

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers breaks free upfield against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Panthers are hopeful receiver Steve Smith (broken arm) will be back for their final preseason game. According to La Canfora, Smith is making good strides in his recovery and he should return by Week 1 of the regular season if he can’t play in Carolina’s final preseason game.

It’s an understatement to say that the Panthers need a healthy Smith in order to compete this season. It’s good that his injury has opened the door for Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell and Dwayne Jarrett to get more reps this offseason, but Matt Moore and the Panthers’ passing game couldn’t survive without Smith.

Edwards has turned heads in OTA sessions this summer, but he’s only a rookie and it’ll take time for him and LaFell to grasp the nuances of being a pro receiver. Most rookie wideouts struggle with route running in their first season, so without a veteran presence like Smith in the lineup to help take the pressure off, they’re likely to fail over the course of an entire season.

But if La Canfora’s report is correct, then the Panthers have nothing to worry about in regards to Smith’s injury. He’ll be rusty upon his return, but having him healthy and playing in Week 1 is the only thing that matters at this point and it appears like that scenario will become a reality.

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