Trade for Torrey Smith gives Panthers needed experience, speed at WR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Check veteran wide receiver off the wish list of Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

Rivera at the NFL combine in Indianapolis said he wanted to add an experienced leader to the receiver room, and the deal to get 29-year-old Torrey Smith from Philadelphia accomplished that.

That the Panthers traded cornerback Daryl Worley, a third-round pick out of West Virginia in 2016, shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Worley actually was benched against the Eagles last season after the second series of a home loss.

This came a week after Worley had two pass interference penalties called against him in a win at Detroit.

Though Worley played better the last half of the season and started 14 of 15 games in which he was healthy, he never played to the level of 2016 second-round pick James Bradberry opposite him.

The Panthers have several young cornerbacks they can turn to, including Kevon Seymour, Zack Sanchez, Corn Elder and Luke Cole. The trade also positions them to go after a top cornerback with the 24th pick of the draft or to acquire a veteran cornerback in free agency.

Seattle released cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane on Friday. New England's Malcolm Butler also is a free agent, but the price tag on him and Sherman might be too high to consider.

The Panthers will pick up Smith's $5 million salary-cap hit when the deal becomes official on March 14, the start of the new league year. Smith also is scheduled to count $5 million against the cap in 2019 unless the Panthers restructure.

But what the Panthers wanted most was Smith's experience and big-play ability because of his speed. The 6-foot, 205-pounder was clocked at 4.36 seconds when Baltimore selected the former Maryland star in the second round of the 2011 draft.

He brings the same skills the Panthers had with Ted Ginn Jr., lost in free agency to New Orleans a year ago. Ginn had 10 touchdown catches in 2015 during Carolina's run to Super Bowl 50. He had 19 touchdown catches in three seasons with the Panthers.

Ginn also had a reputation for dropping passes, as does Smith. But experience was needed on a receiving corps. Devin Funchess, who took over the No. 1 spot after Kelvin Benjamin was traded to Buffalo last season, is in his third season. Others in the receiver room include Curtis Samuel (second year), who spent most of his rookie season hurt, and Damiere Byrd (third year).

Nobody outside them and Funchess appears safe heading into 2018.

Rivera also said at the combine that the team is trying to decide if Funchess is a true No. 1 receiver or a 2. How that shakes out might depend on who the Panthers get in the draft, although rookies typically are not dependable enough to hold the No. 1 role.

Though the addition of Smith doesn't answer the question of what Funchess' role will be, general manager Marty Hurney recently told ESPN.com the "X" position that Funchess took over after the Benjamin trade best suited him.

The addition of Smith takes the pressure off the Panthers to use the 24th pick on a receiver in the first round. Alabama's Calvin Ridley is considered the top receiver in the draft. Although he is not expected to fall to No. 24, Hurney was in Tuscaloosa on Thursday for Alabama's pro day.

Regardless, Smith gives Hurney one less thing to check off Rivera's wish list.