In the two years since the nadir of his career (2010, 554 receiving yards, tons of trade rumors and Jimmy Clausen), Smith's averaged 1,284 yards per season. How long can he keep it going? Smith thinks he's got two or three years left.
“I would try to get 15 or 16 [seasons] and that's really it,” Smith told Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer.
Asked for clarification, Smith confirmed that, yes, he intends to play through either 2014 or 2015.
“I want to play that long,” he says. “I'm in the part of my career where I want to be part of something that's great that, once I'm done playing, I can say, ‘Hey, I was part of that.'"
It remains to be seen whether or not the Panthers are close to "something that's great" -- they've improved their win total in each of the last two seasons and many folks, myself included, expect quarterback Cam Newton to make some strong strides in his third year.
He'll absolutely have to have Smith on board to do so. The depth chart behind 89 Bottom Line doesn't exactly look like a murderers' row of pass catchers with Brandon LaFell, Dominek Hixon, Ted Ginn and David Gettis serving as Newton's primary receivers (other than underrated tight end Greg Olsen).
Smith's willingness to play for another two or three years is huge for Carolina too. They'll eventually need to acquire (presumably through the draft) someone who can replace Smith as a true No. 1 wideout for Cam.
Having a few years to make that move is good news for Panthers fans. Also good news for Panthers fans? Smith wants to hang around and work in the media after he's done with football. He was superb in a recent run on WFNZ's "The Drive" in Charlotte as an intern, and the hosts took note too.
“He would come in with copious notes," Taylor Zarzour, co-host of The Drive and friend of EOF, said. “He'd text me on weekends and ask what he should watch – the Masters, college basketball, the NCAA tournament? He's competitive in the studio, too. He wants to be prepared."
But whether or not he's right (he is) is irrelevant -- the same sort of talk that makes Smith so fun to watch on the football field will also make him a hit in the media once he hangs up his cleats. Fortunately it won't be for another few years at the earliest.
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