"This was not an easy decision," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement. "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."
Gettleman added: "When I took this position I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way. To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all. A decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it's the right one."
The Panthers tried to trade the 35-year-old receiver, but were -- not surprisingly -- unable to come up with a deal.
This was a football move more than a money move, as cutting Smith still will leave a huge salary-cap hit. The veteran receiver's play drastically fell off in 2013, and Gettleman appears to just want to move on.
The Panthers will target Hakeem Nicks to replace Smith, Rapoport reported. Nicks told ESPN's Josina Anderson that he plans to visit the Colts on Friday, and Rapoport added Carolina and the Chargers are in the mix. The athletic but underperforming Nicks has voiced his desire for a multiyear contract. Gettleman has first-hand knowledge of Nicks from the general manager's time in the New York Giants' front office. Therefore, the length and size of a potential contract could speak volumes of how he views Nicks' future.
"The Wrath of 89" could be coming to a stadium near you in 2014.