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Panthers WR Steve Smith Is Perfect Offseason Target For Chiefs

Perhaps it's because off-season conjecture is so much fun to think about. Perhaps it's out of habit that some of us are already thinking about what's to come. Either way, while everyone is excited about the Chiefs final two games of the regular season and the hopes of winning the AFC West and going on to the playoffs, it's also exciting to think about how much better the Chiefs will be in future seasons given the youthful state of the roster.

Wide receiver has already been pointed out as a point of need for the Chiefs future and a position that Scott Pioli will likely address in the off-season in some way or another. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has expressed his disappointment in the Cardinals direction, and many have already linked him as a possible trade target to reunite with Chiefs Head Coach, and former Cardinals Offensive Coordinator, Todd Haley. Others have predicted a Chiefs draft target like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd or Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (since it's a given that Julio Jones of Alabama or A.J. Green of Georgia will likely be taken).

Yet there's another name on the horizon that warrants mentioning that might just be the best target available for the Chiefs: Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. The buzz surrounding Smith's future has already started with the Panthers destined for a top draft pick come next April. He has two years left on a contract paying him $14.75 million in that span. He'll also be 32 when the 2011 season kicks off. It's a strange position for the Panthers who might be looking to move a veteran player for some draft assets while the value is still there.

For those concerned with Smith's current production of 43 catches for 537 yards, consider the quarterbacks throwing to him, the coverages he's seen and the overall struggles of the Panthers this season. It's a franchise in turmoil and Smith's frustration and age combine to make him a likely trade candidate. He's a four-time Pro Bowler. He's tough and plays through injuries. He still has deep-threat speed, the strength to be a solid red zone target despite his size (5'9") and runs precise routes. Plus, imagine his experience alongside Dwayne Bowe and the development of Tony Moeaki.

The reality is that Smith will probably command a bit less in return that Fitzgerald given his age and seemingly declining production. Fitzgerald is definitely the sexier pick, for sure, but the price will be higher there. A new quarterback in Arizona will need a sure-thing like Fitzgerald in his arsenal, while Smith seems more likely to leave. The Chiefs should be there waiting if he does.