Bob Leverone, File, Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wide receiver Steve Smith will have a chance to finish his career where it began.
Agent Derrick Fox said Smith has signed a three-year contract extension with the Panthers that runs through the 2015 season. There is also a team option for the 2016 season.
"The Panthers wanted to try to lock him down for the future and Steve is simply ecstatic about being able to finish his career in Carolina," Fox said. "He loves playing for coach Ron Rivera is excited about the things to come in Carolina. A lot of L.A. guys want to get back to the West Coast, but Steve and his family love living in Charlotte."
Financial terms were not immediately available.
Smith, who turns 33 in May, ranks 32nd in the NFL in yards receiving and is coming off his fifth Pro Bowl season. He's spent all 11 seasons with the Panthers after being selected in the third round out of Utah in 2001. Last season he caught 79 passes for 1,394 yards with seven touchdowns playing alongside rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
Fox said the ability to play for Rivera was a key factor in Smith's decision to return.
"He just loves playing for him," Fox said. "That is a huge difference. He knows that Ron knows what it takes to win. He's a winner and Steve has recognized that."
This is the third time the Panthers have extended Smith's contract without him becoming a free agent.
After signing his rookie deal on June 19, 2001, Smith signed his first extension on March 1, 2007 just days before he was to hit the free agent market.
However, he quickly outperformed that deal and the Panthers gave him a new six-year, $45 million extension on May 4, 2007.
Smith's current contract was set to expire after this season.
Smith has caught 699 passes during his career for 10,278 yards and 59 touchdowns. He also has six returns for touchdowns — four on punts and two on kickoffs.
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