The Steve Smith era in Carolina is over.
The Panthers released their all-time leading receiver Thursday after 13 seasons. In a press release, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said it ‘‘was not an easy decision.’’
‘‘Steve has been one of the NFL’s finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team’s history,’’ Gettleman said. ‘‘As a team, we made a step forward last year; however, we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.’’
Smith said he’s not angry about the decision.
‘‘It’s devastating to hear that you are getting fired, but it’s also exciting because that frees me up to be pursued by other teams,’’ Smith said on SiriusXM. “I have never become a free agent before so I will get a few free dinners out of it at some nice expensive restaurants. I want to enjoy the experience that, frankly, I will never experience again.’’
A person familiar with the situation said Smith traveled to Baltimore Thursday to visit the Ravens just hours after being released.
Smith’s agent, Derrick Fox, said the Panthers never asked Smith, who turns 35 in May, to restructure his current contract. The Panthers were unable to trade Smith, who was set to cost $7 million under this year’s salary cap.
The Panthers still owe Smith $3 million this season.
Smith’s teammate in Carolina the last five seasons, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the Vikings that could be worth as much as $15 million. After signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Panthers last year, Munnerlyn posted career highs of 74 tackles and 3½ sacks.
Eagles swing deals
The Eagles acquired running back Darren Sproles from the Saints for a fifth-round draft pick. The Eagles also agreed on a two-year contract with former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll.
‘‘Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon,’’ Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. ‘‘He can do it all: run, catch, plus he’s a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well.’’
Sproles, 30, is coming off one of his least productive seasons. He ranked in the bottom five among punt returners with a 6.7-yard average and was third worst among kick returners with an average of 21.3. Since 2007, Sproles leads the NFL with 13,806 all-purpose yards and ranks first among running backs in receptions (375), yards receiving (3,371), and TD catches (27). He also has five return touchdowns.
The Saints get the second of Philadelphia’s two fifth-round picks in May. The Eagles acquired that pick from the Patriots in a trade for tackle Isaac Sopoaga. New England released Sopoaga Wednesday.
Raiders in a rush
The Raiders got some good news in free agency one day after voiding top target Rodger Saffold’s contract because of a bad shoulder. The Raiders signed defensive end Justin Tuck and linebacker LaMarr Woodley to two-year deals in an effort to bolster their pass rush. ESPN reported that Tuck will be paid $11 million and Woodley’s deal is worth up to $12 million. Woodley will likely play defensive end for the Raiders, who have no starters coming back from last year’s defensive line. The two pass rushers have combined for 117.5 career sacks and reached double figures in a season seven times in their careers . . . The Bengals released linebacker James Harrison, leaving the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year looking for his third team in three seasons. The 35-year-old linebacker, who helped the Steelers win a pair of Super Bowls, played in 15 games in 2013, starting 10, and finished 12th on the team in tackles. He had two sacks and one interception . . . The Buccaneers cut tackle Donald Penn and signed Anthony Collins (five years, $30 million, including $15 million guaranteed) to replace him . . . The Packers re-signed linebacker Mike Neal and tight end Andrew Quarless.
It’s official for Martin
Jonathan Martin is officially a member of the 49ers, and he’s thrilled for a fresh start to keep playing football.
Martin passed his physical Thursday to complete a trade that sent the offensive tackle from Miami to the Niners to be reunited with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh. Martin left the Dolphins last fall after accusing teammate Richie Incognito of bullying in a scandal that overshadowed the franchise’s 8-8 season.
‘‘It’s a blank slate for me. I'm looking forward to revitalizing my career, getting back to playing,’’ Martin said.
Chris Clemons became the second defensive lineman from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks to join the the Jaguars this week. Clemons, who started 11 games at end for Seattle last season, signed a four-year deal. Financial terms were unknown. Jacksonville signed Red Bryant earlier. The Jaguars also signed ex-Steelers defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and re-signed defensive end Jason Babin, who had 7½ sacks last season . . . The Seahawks and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson agreed to a one-year contract for him to back up Russell Wilson . . . The Browns inked tight end Jim Dray (three years, $5.62 million) and signed Bengals slot wide receiver Andrew Hawkins to a four-year offer sheet. The Bengals have five days to match . . . The Redskins, according to an NFL.com report, have signed Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to a four-year, $27.5 million deal. Washington also agreed to a one-year contract with linebacker Darryl Sharpton, according to a person familiar with the deal . . . Linebacker Kavell Conner signed a three-year contract with the Chargers . . . The Bears agreed to a three-year contract with defensive end Willie Young and a one-year deal with receiver Domenik Hixon. Young spent four years with Detroit and Hixon had seven catches for 55 yards with Carolina in 2013 . . . Former Boston College LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar scored a two-year deal with the Rams that could be worth up to $3.5 million, according to the NFL Network.