ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Carolina Panthers will release wide receiver Steve Smith on Thursday. There were rumors the team was trying to trade him, with locker room issues mentioned as a notable reason. The trade rumors died down, and similar to the Darrelle Revis situation, I have to think a lack of trade partners is why the release will now happen.
When word first came out that Smith might be traded, 49ers fans immediately pounced on him as a potential wide receiver option. The market for Steve Smith should be fairly robust, and the 49ers might kick the tires on him. I doubt he ends up in San Francisco, but the 49ers are not going to ignore a potential receiving option. Golden Tate apparently told a Seattle radio station that the 49ers showed some interest. He said "But I couldn't do that to Seattle right after winning." Who knows how much the team pursued him, but the team obviously recognizes it could use another receiver.
While Steve Smith brings something to the table, at this point I'd rather improve the wide receiver corps through the draft. The A.J. Jenkins pick has made plenty of folks gun-shy, but the 49ers can't just not try and draft quality receivers any more. There is some serious talent in this class, and I think the 49ers would be wise to consider some of it. I don't know that that means grabbing a first round receiver. Part of that depends on how comfortable they are with their chances of extending Michael Crabtree. If they're confident in getting him extended, wide receiver becomes less of a need. Well, if they're confident in extending him, and they have confidence that Quinton Patton will continue to develop.