Where's the money? Wide receiver

A look at the wide receiver position in my series on where the money is for the Carolina Panthers:

Total position spending: $9,106,211

League rank in spending: 31


Analysis: Here's my favorite statistic of this series. Steve Smith was set to count $7 million under the 2014 cap had he not been released by Carolina. The 12 wide receivers on the roster count a combined $9.1 million against the cap. And I believe the Panthers are better for it. General manager Dave Gettleman was going to have to deal with Smith's salary at some point over the next few years. Smith says now he would have retired after the 2014 season, but he apparently didn't relay that message to the Panthers. At 35, he is on the downside of his career. You can say his experience can't be replaced, but it basically was with 31-year-old free agents Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, who count a combined $3 million under this year's cap. You can say his ability to make athletic catches can't be replaced, but it may have been in first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin has made catches in practice that the 5-9 Smith couldn't get to without a ladder. Benjamin has a $1.393 million cap number, and a long career ahead of him. Carolina's biggest loss at receiver may have been Brandon LaFell, who signed with New England. But for an average of $3 million over the next three years, the Panthers got a better bargain in Cotchery and/or Avant based on what they have done over their careers. If Tiquan Underwood, Marvin McNutt, Tavarres King or another young receiver develops as the Panthers believe one will with Smith gone, that's another bargain. In case you're wondering, the only team spending less on wide receivers this year is Dallas at $7,781,694. And $3.1 million of that is going to Dez Bryant, who happens to be worth every penny of that and more.