By Ted Fleming
Halloween is generally accepted to be the scariest day of the year, but because of a storm named Sandy, NFL players are now dreading November 1st, the new date for the trade deadline. And in Charlotte there are two names that have risen to the top of the rumor mill: running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Steve Smith, each the franchise leader in yards at their respective positions.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knocked down the rumors after practice on Wednesday saying that they have not “contacted anybody and we didn’t field any phone calls regarding the two stars but left the door open by adding, “You never know.”
Various outlets are using terms as “viable” regarding Williams and if anything is done he is likely to be the first to go. Carolina has some serious money wrapped up in their two backs and Jonathan Stewart has apparently emerged as the go-to guy in the backfield. On the other hand, the Panthers would probably have to be overwhelmed to move Smith.
Williams signed a five-year contract extension during training camp, and if he is moved, the Cats are on the hook for a $9-plus million cap hit in 2013, although they would save approximately $17 million in base salary for the remainder of his contract. Despite his name being bandied about, Williams remains optimistic.
“I never really thought about leaving,” he said. “The thought of leaving never crossed my mind. I’m going to continue to be a Panther until told otherwise.”
Smith has spent his entire 12-year career in Carolina and has made it clear he wants to finish with the team that drafted him. But a player with his experience and still performing at such a high level has a certain appeal to playoff hopefuls who are willing to bring a top flight veteran into their organization. With more than $20 million still owed in base salary after this year, Smith could be around at least to the end of the season.
“I have the opportunity to finish my career here, and that’s what I plan on doing,” Smith said. “It doesn’t happen very often. A lot of people don’t get to do it. I have the opportunity to do it and I look forward to doing it.”
One of the problems the Panthers face as the deadline approaches is that there is no general manager of record, which could complicate any negotiations, however, if a deal or more is consummated it will likely be to free up cap room for whomever will take over as GM. A 1-6 record at this time of the year makes teams like Carolina sellers instead of browsers or buyers.
Black and blue brigade: The loss to the Bears was tough enough and now the Panthers have to deal with a laundry list of injured players.
WR Brandon LaFell was decked on a flag-induced hit by safety Chris Conte and even though he was concussion cleared he was sore, had a stiff neck and a headache.
DE’s Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) and Thomas Keiser (elbow) along with DT Dwan Edwards (ankle) missed Wednesday’s practice,
DE Frank Alexander (knee) practiced but was pulled.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.