The NFL trade deadline is Thursday at 4 p.m. And like any 1-6 team, the Carolina Panthers are the subject of trade rumors.
Two primary Panther offensive players have been the subject of some interest from other NFL teams: DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith.
Trading Smith would be ridiculous. That is a deal the Panthers absolutely should not make, even though he is 33.
Trading Williams, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense. The running back is 29. Hes a lower-mileage acquisition than Smith, which means he likely would command a higher draft-pick price for Carolina (a future third-rounder would be fair).
Williams plays a position where the Panthers have a lot more depth with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. And running back is a spot that has been de-emphasized in the Panthers Cam Newton era in what is now a thoroughly pass-first league.
Most likely, neither player will end up being dealt. NFL trades are notoriously difficult to make, in large part because of the salary-cap issues they cause on both sides.
But if one player is traded, it should be Williams. Fortunately, it sounds like the Panthers are leaning that way too.
An NFC team did make a preliminary inquiry about trading for Smith, though, following the Panthers 23-22 loss to Chicago Sunday.
Thats understandable. Smith who signed a three-year contract extension in April could immediately help any team.
But he also remains the Panthers best wide receiver. And because this is his 12th year in the NFL, the price the Panthers could extract from another team would not be nearly enough to account for what hes worth in Charlotte.
Put it this way. Have you ever owned a car that you loved despite its flaws? You and the car made tons of great trips together. And it still ran just fine as long as you satisfied a few of its quirkier needs.
But then the car started getting sort of old. You went to a dealership, looked at the new models and asked out loud: How much could I get for this car if I traded it in for something else?
So the salesman said he would go in the back to talk to his manager. They pretended to discuss business, but finished discussing their fantasy football teams.
Then the salesman came back. You were absolutely horrified by his lowball offer. You thought to yourself, "This car is worth a lot more to me than it is to someone else. I think Ill just keep it."
That car is Steve Smith.
Brandon LaFell isnt good enough yet to be a No.1 receiver in the NFL, and the Panthers certainly dont want to have to start Louis Murphy as a No.2 guy. His hands arent consistent enough.
Smith requested a trade in 2010 after the 2-14 season, but that wasnt granted. He ultimately changed his mind once he saw the way Newton could throw the ball, and they went to the Pro Bowl together in 2011. He told reporters in the Panthers locker room Wednesday that he planned to finish his career in Carolina.
Of course, thats ultimately not Smiths choice he doesnt have any sort of no-trade clause in his contract. But Smith can still play. He can still scare defenses. The Panthers off-and-on offense still needs him desperately.
As for Williams? He can still play some, too which is why multiple teams have asked about acquiring him. But he is far more expendable. If theres a decent deal out there, the Panthers should trade No. 34. But not No.89.