Carolina is pursuing free agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and still needs to sign its top two 2019 draft picks, so the club can use any additional cap space it can get. By creating $2MM via Smith’s pay cut, the Panthers should now have roughly $11.835MM in available funds, per Over the Cap.
Smith missed five games due to a knee injury last season, appearing in only 11 games while making six starts. He was targeted just 31 times on the year, hauling in 17 of those targets for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Smith has never been a volume receiver, but he hasn’t topped 12 yards per reception since 2015, and hasn’t posted more than 40 catches since 2014.
Carolina acquired Smith, now 30 years old, from the Eagles last offseason in exchange for cornerback Daryl Worley. The Panthers exercised his 2019 option despite his lack of production last year, but that decision came with no downside, as none of Smith’s $5MM salary was guaranteed.
The Panthers added free agent Chris Hogan and seventh-round draft pick Terry Godwin to a wide receiver depth chart that already includes D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Jarius Wright, so Smith isn’t likely to see an increase in snaps in 2019. Despite today’s pay cut, he still may not be a lock for Carolina’s roster, although the club would now have to carry that $1MM bonus payment as dead money.