Tom Sorensen

Torrey Smith is a fine start for Panthers offense in need of help. More moves await.

Torrey Smith has played on two Super Bowl-winning teams, with the Ravens in 2013 and the Eagles in 2018.
Torrey Smith has played on two Super Bowl-winning teams, with the Ravens in 2013 and the Eagles in 2018. MCT

Sending Daryl Worley to the Philadelphia Eagles for Torrey Smith was a good deal for the Carolina Panthers. Worley has never established that he’s an NFL starting cornerback. Smith, meanwhile, gives Carolina’s receivers instant credibility. He can move.

I went to Baltimore to do a story on Steve Smith Sr. before the Panthers played the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. I wanted to ask other Ravens about Smith and talked to Torrey. The locker room was closed, but he wanted to talk about Smith, whom he greatly admired. Torrey was smart, courteous, a guy you like to be around. That won’t make his routes better. But he’ll be good with his new teammates.

That offense needs help, and Torrey Smith is a fine start.

Ted Ginn Jr. once was Carolina’s designated fast receiver. Before Carolina signed him, Ginn played six seasons, three with the Miami Dolphins and three with the San Francisco 49ers.

In those seasons, he caught 151 passes for 2,468 yards and six touchdowns.

Torrey Smith has played seven seasons, four for Baltimore, two for the San Francisco 49ers and one for the Eagles. He’s caught 299 passes for 4,929 yards and 39 touchdowns.

Ginn didn’t find himself until he came to Carolina. When Cam Newton stepped into a pass, you knew where the ball was going. Be a great deal if, like Ginn, Smith finds himself here.

The offense will miss guard Andrew Norwell, who signed with Jacksonville. The Panthers discovered him, but there was never a chance they could keep him.

The departure of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei probably was inevitable. He’s signed with Buffalo.

Because he lined up next to defensive tackle Kawann Short, we didn’t always notice Lotulelei. Short is faster, much better at getting into the offensive backfield, and thus at the quarterback. He’s also better at getting paid. The Panthers weren’t going to give Lotulelei the money they gave Short.

Short was taken with the 44th pick in 2013, Lotulelei the 14th. When Lotulelei was a rookie, I noticed one of his coaches going through training camp in Spartanburg with a perpetual smile. I asked why he was so happy. He pointed to Lotulelei.

If fans didn’t notice Lotulelei, Carolina’s linebackers did. The man took up space. And as blockers occupied that big space using body of his, linebackers Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson were often free to move without shedding guards and tackles.

I’ll miss the big man. I needed two years to lean to spell Lotulelei, a skill I probably never will require again.

Vernon Butler, whom the Panthers drafted at the end of the first round in 2016 out of Louisiana Tech, is about to start his third season. What do we know about Butler? His name is easy to spell, but beyond that? Can he play? Do you know? You don’t know. I don’t know. The Panthers don’t know. This season, we’ll find out.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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