Carolina Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr. was one of the most entertaining players in the NFL over the past two decades. It’s no surprise that NFL Network hired him to be an analyst. For as much as he talked, though, he backed up his words on the football field.
Even in retirement, Smith Sr. can talk with the best of them. He thinks he would be even better and make even more money in today’s NFL.
Steve Smith Sr. put together a Hall of Fame career
Smith spent 16 seasons in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers drafted him with the No. 74 overall pick in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft out of Utah.
Smith spent most of his career with the Panthers and was highly productive during his tenure. The Los Angeles native recorded 836 receptions for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns in 13 seasons in Carolina.
Smith led the league in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,563), and touchdowns (12) during his 2005 campaign. The former Utes standout established himself as easily one of the most talented receivers in the game at that time.
The former All-Pro wideout played the last three seasons of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. His best season in Baltimore came in 2014. Smith caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns.
For his career, Smith earned five Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections. He ranks No. 8 in receiving yards, No. 12 in receptions, and No. 28 in receiving touchdowns all time.
Smith Sr. thinks he would make a lot of money if he played today
Steve Smith Sr. strongly believes that he would be a dominant force in the NFL if he played right now. The NFL Network analyst was a guest on The Ryen Russillo Podcast and predicted how he’d fare in 2021.
“This is a passing league,” said Smith. “The amount of plays, and the way it’s really so much for the offense…I personally think the way I played, I would be a $200 million receiver.”
The NFL has dramatically shifted to becoming a passing league. Most of the Super Bowl champions over the past several seasons have featured potent passing attacks.
Smith Sr.’s skill set would allow him to thrive against opposing defenses. The game is officiated differently than it was when the Panthers great played. Defenders used to get away with more contact, but now, referees get a little whistle happy.
“Being physical, throwing guys down and playing the way I played. If you put me in some of these offenses, it’d be interesting,” said Smith Sr. “I made a whole lot of money, but I’d make a lot more money bullying people.”
Smith was a savvy route-runner with sub-4.4 speed. He was as tough a wide receiver as they come, and he would flourish in the offenses of today.
Steve Smith Sr. would not like the NFL’s taunting rules, though
Steve Smith Sr. is one of the greatest trash-talkers in the history of the NFL. He had the gift for gab and provided numerous entertaining sound bites over the years.
The wideout routinely made defenders look silly, then let them know about it.
While Smith would play well in 2021, he would undoubtedly get annoyed with some of the league’s rule changes. The rule that would most likely get under his skin is the new taunting rule.
The NFL has emphasized sportsmanship, especially with the growing number of younger fans who watch the sport. However, it has opened the flood gates for officials to throw the flag whenever players celebrate too much.
Some of the flags have been egregious. The betting odds would probably favor Steve Smith Sr. leading the league in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Trash-talking is a skill, and Smith mastered it. He might not get away with spinning the football or getting in his opponents’ faces, but the future Hall of Famer would be a joy to watch.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.